Dear Law School Community,
As we begin another academic year, I want to welcome you back or welcome you to the law school for the first time. I am deeply honored to serve as your dean and am looking forward to a wonderful year. I am excited to get to know all of you and do whatever I can to help this school and each of you reach your highest potential. So many good things are happening here, and we are going to build upon these successes to reach new heights.
In contrast with my excitement for the new school year, I am deeply saddened by this weekend’s horrible events in Charlottesville. I want to reiterate Chancellor Vitter’s statement:
The University of Mississippi vehemently condemns the racism, bigotry, and the acts of violence committed by hate groups in Charlottesville this past weekend. There is no place for violence and intolerance – not in our communities, on our campuses, or in our country. No words can adequately express how saddened we are by these acts. We stand with the University of Virginia community and send our sympathies to all victims of this tragedy. Please join us in keeping Charlottesville and UVA in our thoughts as they heal, find unity, and move forward. We ask members of the UM community to support one another, follow the principles of our Creed, and access campus resources should they be needed.
I personally find the views expressed by the extremists at the UVA rally abhorrent and against my own core values. However, I also recognize that our laws allow people to express their own personally held beliefs in certain circumstances. To that end, our classrooms need to be places where vigorous debate can occur in a setting that honors everyone’s right to have and express their beliefs. Sometimes the beliefs of others may conflict with our own beliefs and even be offensive to us. But let me make clear that differences of opinions should be resolved through persuasion and never by intimidation or violence.
As attorneys, we are held to a higher standard, and I am confident that all of us at the University of Mississippi School of Law will rise to and abide by this standard. And I honestly believe that Justice Louis Brandeis was correct when he said, “In differentiation, not in uniformity, lies the path of progress.” Attorneys should be leading the way in showing people how to address conflict and difference of opinions with civil and respectful discourse. We must protect the rule of law and never allow anyone to undermine it. Law students and attorneys well understand that there may be multiple ways to view an issue or to solve a societal problem. The best attorneys carefully consider opposing viewpoints in order to craft more effective arguments. Therefore, let us strive together to create an environment where deeply held views can be expressed and challenged in an honest and constructive manner.
Susan Duncan, Dean of the Law School