Inaugural ACE Regional Summit Explores Campus Free Expression and Inclusion
October 29, 2018

​Senior higher education leaders can often feel isolated when urgent issues arise on college campuses. A new seri​es of ACE Regional Summits seeks to help leaders feel more connected to a community of peers and find immediate but comprehensive solutions to pressing matters.

To kick off this new model, a small group of leaders gathered earlier this month in Atlanta to examine freedom of expression and inclusion at colleges and universities. Attendees spent a day and a half tackling the complexities of these paired issues in panel discussions and peer-based breakout sessions.

The opening panel, called “From Where We Sit: Perspectives from the Ground,” considered the current state of free expression and inclusion on college campuses. The differing roles of the panelists and moderator—Lowell Davis, assistant vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and Student Success, Western Carolina University; Sarah Kenny, former student government president, University of Virginia; Richard Reddick, associate professor and policy coordinator, The University of Texas at Austin; and Stanley “Stas” Preczewski, president, Georgia Gwinnett College—provided multiple perspectives, but they all agreed on some advice for participants: Be proactive and not reactive. Build community. Include campus experts in the conversations. Listen first, then communicate with all stakeholders. Be authentic.

The next panel set the legal context while also considering student demographics and the larger inclusion imperative. As Taffye Benson Clayton, associate provost and vice president for inclusion and diversity at Auburn University, said, “Today’s leaders need to do our personal work to be able to speak to [the changing demographics of our campuses]. How can we let our entire campus community know how our values are integral to our mission?”

Small off-the-record breakout sessions allowed participants to dive even further into the topic and have honest conversations about the realities of leadership in challenging times. Participants first had the opportunity for candid dialogue with their peers and then met with colleagues in other roles.

For more information on the topic of campus inclusion and free expression, see these “To The Point” briefs on Controversial Speakers and Hateful Incide​nts on Campus from ACE’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy (CPRS). CPRS does other work in this area, which can be found h​ere

Two more Regional Summits, both on the topic of student mental health, will take place this winter: the ACE West Winter Summit, January 17-18 in Tucson, Arizona, or the ACE South Winter Summit, February 7-8 in New Orleans. Presidents, provosts, and other senior leaders can now register to attend. Click here to find out more.