ResearchUNC Charlotte

Charlotte Nationally Recognized For Promoting Free Expression

UNC Charlotte has received joint national recognition for its work to promote free expression and for serving as role models for other research institutions, according to Heterodox Academy. It joins UNC-Chapel Hill in receiving the honor.

 The two UNC System universities received the institutional excellence award given by the nonprofit organization, which is devoted to advancing open inquiry, viewpoint diversity and constructive disagreement in higher education. Led by the Free Expression and Constructive Dialogue Task Force, UNC Charlotte has launched a number of successful initiatives to become a leader in viewpoint diversity.

 “This award is validation of the hard work put in by our group over the last two years,” said Matthew Metzgar, chair of the task force and clinical professor of economics. “We have members from across the University community contributing. It’s truly been a campuswide effort to support free expression and constructive dialogue here at UNC Charlotte.”

In September 2022, the Charlotte Faculty Council established the task force, and in April 2023, the Faculty Council overwhelmingly passed a free speech resolution based on the Chicago principles, a model free speech policy statement that affirms commitment to free expression.

The task force created a Constructive Dialogue Faculty Learning Community to bring tools of constructive dialogue into the classroom, in addition to creating a resource website. The task force also established the Charlotte Conversationalists, a program that has trained undergraduate students in the art of constructive dialogue and is supporting them as they conduct student conversations in informal settings on campus.

Receiving the award supports the task force’s work and expands awareness on campus and beyond, Metzgar said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase the many programs and initiatives we have developed,” he said. “It helps to position us in the higher education space as a leader in this area. It also shows potential students that our campus is one where viewpoint diversity and rich dialogue are supported.”

Free expression is included in the guiding commitments in Charlotte’s Shaping What’s Next Strategic Plan, with a commitment to integrity and respect by ensuring the highest academic, professional and ethical standards and a collegial culture that embraces different perspectives, civil discourse, and free expression through which all University members are treated with respect, fairness and dignity.

The 2023 Open Inquiry awards were selected from nominations received from HxA members and supporters. UNC Charlotte and UNC-Chapel Hill are part of the Heterodox Academy’s Campus Community Network, which seeks to showcase and model the academy’s values, and improve institutional policies, practices and culture on campus.

In activities since receiving the award, the task force was a sponsor in April of the North Carolina Campus Discourse Leaders Conference, which brought together experts from colleges and universities across the state to share best practices regarding  free expression and dialogue.

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