Deepening political polarization has contributed to an increased regularity of harassment, threats, and acts of violence against scholars and university professors. The intentional misrepresentation of theories, such as critical race theory and anti-racism pedagogy, have placed the safety of scholars in peril for speaking out about their research and scholarship. Scholars whose social identities or scholarship focus on marginalized and underrepresented groups, such as Black women and trans scholars, are subject to constant surveillance and routine attacks based not on the subject of their work but for simply doing the jobs that their institutions hire them to do. Across the country, these scholars experience threatening emails and letters, placement on watch lists, doxxing of personal information, amongst other forms of intimidation, harm, and violence.

This reality is exacerbated by the proliferation and accessibility of digital media spaces, particularly social media platforms, that render higher education, principles of DEI, and academic freedom an easy target. Higher education institutions have a responsibility to uphold the spirit and principles of academic freedom and free speech, and to create safe environments for scholars by anticipating and responding to such threats rather than optional or relegated to the often deprioritized spaces of DEI work.

This panel discussion will explore how institutions can be better stewards and supporters of the scholars that advance institutional missions and, through their research, contribute to a more equitable and just society. The goals of this discussion are three-fold:

  • Generate awareness and bring attention to these acts of harm and how they impact scholars and their safety;
  • Discuss institutional responsibility for ensuring a safe and secure space with adherence to the principles of academic freedom; and
  • Share existing resources related to how institutions of higher education and other organizations are ensuring scholar safety.

Though this event centers the experiences of scholars that engage in DEI and anti-racist related research and scholarship, staff and administrators are encouraged to join in and reflect on their own experiences and how insights from this event can be used to inform the development of institutional policies and practices to ensure scholar safety.

Sponsors: The National Center for Institutional Diversity, University of Michigan Office of the Vice President for Research, and National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education

Welcome & Framing

Trachette Jackson

Associate Vice President for Research - Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiatives in the Office of the Vice President for Research; University Diversity & Social Transformation Professor; and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Michigan



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


Nina Flores

Associate Professor of Advanced Studies in Education and Counseling at California State University, Long Beach; and Senior Fellow in the UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement



Patrick Grzanka — Divisional Dean for Social Sciences and Professor of Psychology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville



John Lofy

Executive Director of Marketing and Communications in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts at the University of Michigan; and Co-chair of U-M Work Group on Responding to Threats and Harassment of Faculty


Moni Marcelo

Director of Office of Threat Assessment at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign