The University of Rhode Island respects the rights and dignity of each individual and group. The University does not support statements and publications by Professor Donna Hughes that espouse anti-transgender perspectives and recognize that such discourse can cause pain and discomfort for many transgender individuals. The University is committed to transgender rights and the need to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence aimed at transgender individuals and the LGBTQIA+ community.
However, the University recognizes that faculty have the same rights, obligations, and responsibilities as other American citizens. The University honors and respects the right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment for all citizens, including our faculty, without censorship or retaliation. The University also recognizes that its faculty have the general right to “academic freedom” in their teaching and scholarship, as described in the University Manual and the URI/AAUP Collective Bargaining Agreement, which adopt the principles set forth in the AAUP’s “1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.”
A faculty member’s First Amendment and academic freedom rights are not boundless, however, and should be exercised responsibly with due regard for the faculty member’s other obligations, including their obligations to the University’s students and the University community. As stated in the above referenced documents, faculty have a special obligation to show due respect for the opinions of others and to “exercise critical self-discipline and judgment” and “appropriate restraint” in transmitting their personal opinions.
The University, College of Arts and Sciences and Department of Gender and Women Studies are working to support our students and the community as we move through — and learn from — this situation. Resources are available for community members seeking support including the Gender and Sexuality Center and the Bias Resource Team.