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Communications to Campus

NIU Today

Letter to Students from President Baker

October 14, 2016

Dear Students,

Last week I shared NIU’s new Freedom of Expression policy with our Huskie community. I’ve heard from students, faculty, staff and alumni in the halls and in email every day since. Their positive feedback demonstrates that NIU’s message about valuing and fostering a diverse living and learning environment not only resonated, but would be championed. 

While the support is invaluable, communicating the policy was the easy part. Our challenge and responsibility now is to navigate together what it means to live it — from how to embrace the policy and the feelings it might bring to the surface to understanding the outcomes and consequences that result from the privilege to speak and act openly. There will be lessons learned at every level, plenty of chances for missteps and perhaps more questions than answers moving forward. That’s part of the process. What will endure is our commitment to free expression and creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive campus for it to thrive.

While members of the university administration will take the lead in advancing and protecting the freedom of expression, there is a critical leadership role for all of our students to serve as well. Your peer-to-peer interactions, willingness to be open and honest and respectful can do much to improve and grow our university and society as a whole.

Just this week, members of our Black Student Union chose to use their freedom of expression with chalk drawings and peaceful demonstrations to draw awareness to a cause important to them. Whether you agree with what causes or issues your fellow students choose to take up, we all stand to benefit when we listen with curiosity before judgment, and speak and act with respect before resistance. I encourage each of you to be welcoming and see a different point of view. Engage in dialogue and one-on-one interactions versus hiding behind the cloak of anonymity that social media provides.

Whether it’s ideas shared in the classroom, The College Grind or in the stands, you came to NIU to be exposed to new thinking and experiences that will prepare you for your life’s goals. Your classmates and experiences at NIU will not only shape you, but guide you. 

In the coming weeks and months there will be university-sponsored activities, events and communications in NIU Today meant to inform, educate and, ideally, spark respectful dialogue on these matters. I encourage you to engage with our cultural centers, seek out campus resources for support, sign the Northern Pact or attend author Bryan Stevenson’s Monday, Oct. 24, presentation on social justice. Reach out to your peers and remind them what it means to be a Huskie.

Together Forward,

Doug