Academic freedom is a core feature of academia, encouraging open inquiry, among other ideals and protections towards promoting and enacting principles of a democratic society. Higher education and intellectualism have been under attack in the current climate, posing threats to academic freedom and leading toward a chilling effect within education. These efforts are being framed as measures to prevent the teaching of “divisive concepts,” which, in effect, are topics that name and seek to address societal inequities and to improve the greater human condition and have led to the dismantling of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, book and teaching bans, and discipline or termination of individuals who engage in this work. The codifying of such efforts presents clear and immediate challenges to academic freedom, education, and society writ large. In this conversation, panelists will discuss anti-intellectualism and anti-DEI through a historical and contemporary lens. Panelists will also discuss how such efforts seek to disrupt progress gained by the enactment of DEI efforts. Finally, panelists will offer insights on navigating these challenges and their chilling effects within higher education and beyond.


Elizabeth R. Cole — Director of the National Center for Institutional Diversity; University Diversity & Social Transformation Professor; and Professor of Women's and Gender Studies, Psychology, and Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan



Lorena Chambers — Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Inclusive History Project and the Department of History at the University of Michigan



Timothy R. Cain — Professor of Higher Education at the University of Georgia

Chaddrick James-Gallaway — Assistant Professor of Higher Education at Texas A&M University 

Paula Lantz — James B. Hudak Professor of Health Policy, University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor of Public Policy, Director of the Undergraduate Degree Program in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and Professor of Health Management and Policy at the University of Michigan

Letter Writing Template & Tips

For many of us, the discussion evoked strong feelings and moved us to ask, What can we do? You may have something you want to share with a decision maker, be it your board of regents, city council, school board, etc., but may not know where to start.

  • Could be a complaint or a worry.
  • Could also let them know about things that matter to you that you’d like them to initiate, continue, or protect.
  • Or maybe there’s a policy or program you want to praise, or urge them to continue or protect.

We've developed a template and tips intended to help you refine what you would like to share, and how you would like to share it. We hope this helps you make your voice heard by decision makers in your communities.