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Invitation to PEN America Workshop for Faculty on March 31


Free speech and academic freedom are among the most challenging and timely issues facing universities in our state and across the nation.

Our faculty haveListen. Learn. Lead Week logo shared their interest in learning more about how to navigate the difficult situations that can arise related to these topics. To support them and lead campus conversations on free speech and academic freedom, we have partnered with PEN America to present its faculty workshop “Creating Classrooms for All: Fostering Open and Respectful Exchange.”

I invite you to attend.

The workshop will be held Thursday, March 31, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Lunch will be provided.

Please register by March 23 if you plan to attend.

Workshop Schedule

  • 7:45–8 a.m.: Check-in and continental breakfast
  • 8 a.m.: Principles of Free Speech and Respectful Communication
    This session will introduce participants to the legal framework of the First Amendment, principles of free speech and academic freedom, unprotected speech such as harassment or threats, and the importance of respect for effective communication. By the conclusion of the session, participants will be able to understand frameworks for free speech, academic freedom, and conduct guidelines that impact classroom discourse.
  • 9:40 a.m.: Setting the Stage for Robust Engagement
    This session will explain the authority of faculty in the classroom to set expectations, community standards for communication, and assessment based on information integrity, disciplinary standards, and learning objectives. Participants will be encouraged to share their own experiences with classroom management and assessment. In addition, participants will discuss tools for classroom activities that can elicit student engagement and open exchange while also supporting active listening, nuanced dialogue, and community-building.
  • 11 a.m.: Creating a Respectful Learning Environment for All
    This session will offer tools for facilitating a respectful environment in class. Participants will discuss how to design classroom exercises that model and encourage perspective-taking, constructive disagreement, and respectful communication. The session will also cover how to effectively address situations in which racist or hateful arguments are put forth in a classroom or another setting on campus in ways that do not impinge on the environment for open exchange.
  • 12:15 p.m.: Lunch (provided) and discussion
  • 12:45 p.m.: Managing Tense Moments and Their Aftermath
    This session will equip faculty with de-escalation strategies for tense, politicized, or emotional moments that can be unexpected but often need to be addressed to maintain an open and respectful classroom climate.
  • 2:10 p.m.: Summary discussion

The March 31 workshop is part of UT’s “Listen. Learn. Lead. Week,” March 28–April 2. PEN America is also planning a series of virtual workshops for faculty in April. Look for more information coming soon.

John Zomchick
Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor