Institutional Statements - FAQs

What are institutional statements?

Institutional statements, which are official statements of the university, are made via the university’s leadership. When deans, directors, and department chairs act in their university roles and use university resources to make statements, their statements are attributed to the university. However, as a state agency, it is usually not appropriate (or permitted) for the university to take stances on political issues or matters of state and national policy. This includes employees using university resources and channels to issue political statements. The relevant rules are included here: 

What about academic freedom?

Individual faculty and staff, in their non-work roles, using non-university resources, may exercise their free speech on any matter.  The university strongly supports and protects the academic freedom of faculty to express, learn, teach and discover knowledge.

Does the university ever issue institutional statements that touch on controversial issues?

The default position is to not issue statements. Occasionally, the university or its units will want to issue institutional statements on public events such as natural disasters or tragedies, or even on matters of public policy, when authorized.

Can I advocate for the issuing of a statement?

If academic leaders believe an exception is warranted, they should contact the VP, chief marketing & communications officer, who will consult with the president, VP for legal affairs, and other relevant stakeholders to determine whether the situation warrants an institutional statement.

When considering an institutional statement, the university typically weighs the following factors (as well as other factors, depending on the situation): 

  • Does the issue affect our community in unique ways beyond the general impact it has on society? In some cases – such as intellectual property theft or matters of public safety – the answer may be “yes.” In many situations, the answer is “no;” our students’, faculty, or staff connection to an issue is unrelated to their role at UT.
  • Does a UT statement add anything to the conversation that isn’t already out there? If not, then words from the president, provost or deans add little to the public conversation. In some cases, it is appropriate for the university to support a statement that is already out from a national organization such as AAU or APLU or from the UT System or state government.
  • What precedent does a statement create for future events? Weighing in on one event can create the expectation the university will weigh in on others – or be seen as picking and choosing among stakeholders.
  • Does a UT statement chill the speech of others within our community? Institutional statements carry significant weight, and issuing a statement means the university is taking a position. We believe our prospective and current students, faculty, and staff cover the full spectrum of beliefs and values. Therefore, the perception that the university adheres to a set view on an issue can contribute to an atmosphere where people with opposing views feel reluctant to speak out. This runs counter to the university’s goals of fostering the free exchange of ideas.

If the university determines that a statement is appropriate, it then considers the following executional factors: 

  • Who is the primary audience?  All of campus; students, faculty or staff specifically; alumni; external constituents
  • Who should issue it?  Where possible, lean into those closest to the community most impacted (e.g. program leaders re: students, center directors representing specific communities or topics, diversity officers within CSUs). 
  • Where should it be issued?  Email, website, social media, others?
  • What surrounding actions can we incorporate?  We believe our primary role is to educate, so where possible, we would like to reference upcoming events on topic, existing support programs and resources for our community to take advantage of. 

What is expected from faculty and staff?

Please refrain from approving or sending statements within your unit without first consulting the VP, CMCO.