External Speakers & Public Events Philosophy

St. Charles close shot

I. Background of the Policy

Carroll College’s first External Speaker Policy was developed from 2006-2008 through the work of a task force that comprised members of the Faculty Council, a committee of tenured faculty members who serve in an advisory capacity to the President of Carroll College, and members of the  Board of Trustees. In Fall 2020, Carroll began a process of review of the policy and a group of faculty, staff, administration and one Trustee were charged with reviewing and revising the policy as described here. This working group consulted documents such as Ex Corde Ecclesiae and others endorsed by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, and documents generated by members of the Carroll community (e.g., Catholic Identity and Academics and The Nature of Academic Freedom).  They were also inspired by statements and policies on public events and invitations to outside speakers from other Catholic Colleges and Universities.

II. Purpose of Policy

  1. To facilitate planning for Public Events or External Speakers on College property or at College-hosted events off campus or virtually;
  2. To encourage the college community to engage a diversity of people, ideas, and perspectives;
  3. To ensure that the educational goals and the mission of Carroll College are considered when planning a Public or External Speaker Event;
  4. To assure that campus events and discourse will be safe and respectful.

III. Philosophy: Educational Context for Campus Events/External Speakers Policy

1. Mission and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition

As stated in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, “…the objective of a Catholic University is to assure in an institutional manner a Christian presence in the university world confronting the great problems of society and culture” (§13).  Accordingly, “It is the honor and the responsibility of a Catholic University to consecrate itself without reserve to the cause of truth”(§ 4).  In Fides et Ratio, Pope John Paul II writes that “faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.” In 2018, Pope Francis affirmed this principle when he told a delegation from Villanova, “Universities, by their very nature, are called to be workshops of dialogue and encounter in the service of truth, justice, and the defense of human dignity at every level. This is especially true of Catholic institutions.” Carroll College carries out this challenge confidently as a Catholic, diocesan, liberal arts college in the ecumenical tradition of the Second Vatican Council.

Carroll College’s Mission Statement is the framework for how the College embraces this honor and responsibility.  It begins with the College’s commitment to Instilling an enduring wonder for knowledge that lies at the core of learning.  The idea of the sacramentality of all knowledge is part of the lived traditions of Carroll College.  As Carroll’s former Dean of Mission, Dr. Chris Fuller, states in his essay Catholic Identity and Carroll College: A Proposal, “The Christian doctrine of the incarnation affirms that because all creation comes from God, and because God became part of that creation in the person of Jesus, God has become ‘fully immersed in and committed to the material world.’” A sacramental worldview within this Catholic theological framework refers to more than the seven sacraments. It refers to the manner by which material things can serve as instruments of grace. Therefore, as Fr. Michael Himes writes, “nothing is by definition profane. Everything is potentially sacramental.” Thus, in its mission, in its connection to the Catholic intellectual tradition, and its lived traditions, Carroll College is committed to considering for reflection multiple ideas and perspectives that constitute our material world. As stated in our Mission Statement, Carroll practices this through the liberal arts in the context of the Catholic intellectual tradition and their “traditional role of providing for the expansion of the intellectual, imaginative, and social awareness” of our students as well as encouraging them “to participate in a broad spectrum of academic disciplines.” 

As an integral part of its liberal arts education, as stated in Carroll’s mission, Carroll welcomes contributions from a variety of perspectives as part of the search for truth by Offering an integrative and value-centered education rooted in freedom of inquiry. Carroll endeavors an understanding that is not merely multi-disciplinary and multi-perspectival, but also seeks to critically integrate insights from differing disciplines, both secular and religious, and approaches within them. In addition, it incorporates questions of meaning, the good, and the dignity of all persons in its integrative endeavors.

As a Catholic college, Carroll’s mission Engag[es] faithfully the intellectual tradition and the teachings of the Catholic Church. As reflected in contemporary debates about Laudato Si’ and issues of war and peace, the Catholic intellectual tradition has always engaged in robust dialogue, exploring humanity and the universe in their totality. In the Idea of the University, Cardinal John Henry Newman argues that a Catholic institution of higher learning “is not a Convent, it is not a Seminary; it is a place to fit [people] of the world for the world.” 

Catholicity in its deepest meaning is an affirmation of the global resonance of its message. In the context of higher education, it is especially an insatiable intellectual curiosity and an appetite to explore and understand the totality of reality, including the human experience in all its expressions. As such, engaging the Catholic intellectual tradition is an adventure in discovery that can lead to intellectual and spiritual discomfort. It requires intellectual boldness, respect for learning, and profound wonder at Creation in all its awe-inspiring and humbling complexity. In a living, searching, and deepening exploration, faith, and reason are exercised in a complementary relation. The gifts of Reason and Revelation combine to extend an invitation to engage in this quest for truth. In the Catholic intellectual tradition scholars and students view this quest as a sacred obligation.

2. Academic Freedom and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition

The U.S. Bishop’s Application for Ex Corde Ecclesiae states “the purpose of a Catholic university is education and academic research proper to the disciplines of the university” and that “academic freedom is an essential component of a Catholic university”(Art. 2§ 1 & 2). Catholic colleges and universities, from their very origins, have not only welcomed but also invited diversity of thought and lively debate on the variety of issues that energize an academic community's search for truth, especially in difficult and sensitive areas. There is no contradiction between the ideas of academic freedom and our Catholic identity.

Therefore, Carroll College must be at a crossroads: 

  • where all the vital intellectual currents of our time meet in dialogue;
  • where the great and sometimes difficult issues of the world and of the Church are thoughtfully explored in their depths and complexities;
  • where all sincere seekers are welcomed, listened to, and respected through a serious consideration of what they have to say about their beliefs or unbelief, their understandings, and questions;
  • where differences in ways of thought, of conviction, and of life can stand in an appreciative relationship; and
  • where over time continual conversations can be cultivated and not foreclosed. 

Accordingly, the Carroll College Mission Statement declares that, “As an academic community, Carroll College affirms its commitment to the principle of freedom of inquiry in the process of investigating, understanding, critically reflecting upon, and finally judging reality and truth in all fields of human knowledge.”

Our professional organizations likewise affirm this commitment. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, our institutional accreditor, points out in its 2020 Standards on Academic Freedom (2.B.2) that: 

Within the context of its mission and values, the institution defines and actively promotes an environment that supports independent thought in the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge. It affirms the freedom of faculty, staff, administrators, and students to share their scholarship and reasoned conclusions with others. While the institution and individuals within the institution may hold to a particular personal, social, or religious philosophy, its constituencies are intellectually free to test and examine all knowledge and theories, thought, reason, and perspectives of truth. Individuals within the institution allow others the freedom to do the same. 

Similarly, in the statement on Academic Freedom and Outside Speakers, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) reminds us that “the freedom to hear is an essential condition of a university community and an inseparable part of academic freedom," that we also “bear the obligation to ensure conditions of peaceful discussion,” and that “only in the most extreme and extraordinary circumstances can the near certainty of imminent danger justify rescinding an invitation to an outside speaker.”

While Carroll College recognizes that facilitating such free expression is not always easy and may even be controversial or unsettling to some, it also recognizes that providing varied opportunities for such expression is fundamental to its role and responsibility as an academic institution, and precisely as a Catholic college. 

IV. Guiding Principles

Carroll College’s Public Event and External Speaker Policy is grounded in Carroll’s mission as a Catholic, diocesan, liberal arts college in the ecumenical tradition of the Second Vatican Council. Carroll College is strongly committed to providing an environment where all matters of human ideas and experience--especially challenging matters--can be explored openly, heard, contemplated, and argued productively in an environment of collective respect. 

The following principles guide the organization of public events and invitations to outside speakers to Carroll’s campus:

Academic Freedom Historic practice and documentation (e.g., Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, Carroll’s Mission Statement, as well as professional organization expectations (e.g., AAUP and NWCCU) establish academic freedom as essential to the work of the College. Carroll College acknowledges the expertise of faculty in academic matters.  Moreover, universities, colleges, and other higher education organizations recognize that the “classroom” extends beyond the four classroom walls and specific class time blocks to broader campus events, including events to which external speakers are invited and events open to the public. To encourage the college community to engage a diversity of issues and perspectives and to encourage civil dialogue in a robust educational environment, speakers and public events will ordinarily be welcomed on campus.

Alignment with Carroll’s mission Carroll College recognizes a distinction between inviting speakers and planning events with the purpose of exploring a point of view as part of understanding the wholeness of human experience and inviting speakers and planning events the primary purpose of which is to advocate for positions opposed to the values of Carroll’s mission(link is external). For example, it is well within the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and the mission of the College to explore the lives and beliefs of white supremacists at a College event, but inviting a speaker whose sole purpose is promoting white supremacy would need more careful consideration.

It is the responsibility of the institution to have a diversity of events, including those that address Carroll’s mission and Catholic identity. Speakers may hold and defend positions that differ from Catholic Church teachings with the expectation that their presentations are suited to an academic context and will be conducted in a respectful manner.

Institutional non-sponsorship disclaimer Carroll College provides a forum for the discussion of ideas and opinions but unless otherwise specified no individual, presentation, or performance represents the views of the College.

Subsidiarity Carroll College follows the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, in which governance occurs at the lowest level possible but the highest level necessary.

Institutional honors and awards Events planned by and speakers honored by the institution itself (e.g., graduation speakers, Founder’s Day events, honorary degrees) convey institutional approval and will therefore require approval by the President and the Board of Trustees in consultation with the Chancellor.

Significance to the community The speaker and the event should be of relevance to the Carroll community with the speaker having competence in their subject matter, either through scholarship, art, and/or personal experience. As a Catholic institution of higher education, Carroll as a whole is particularly committed to including events that explicitly explore the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, such as our annual Faith and Reason Lecture, events around Laudato Si', or matters of social justice.

Safety The College neither dictates nor censors the content of campus events and recognizes that exploring intellectual and spiritual assumptions may cause discomfort. But the College must ensure that speech and expressive activities do not place community members at risk of physical harm or impede in institutional functions. Thus, when such concerns arise, the event will need to be coordinated with the appropriate offices on campus to ensure the physical safety of our community.

A model for respectful discourse College events will be organized and communicated transparently. In accordance with Carroll’s mission, our community is committed to respectful dialogue, which models sensitivity to lived experience, cultural humility, genuine listening and critical reflection, especially when addressing difficult topics. This is crucial to counteract the trends toward intolerance increasingly observable in society.