Digest No. 10 - March 2022
Frozen and Failing: Administrative (Non)Response to DEI Incidents
How do university administrators think about and conceptually frame their institutions’ responses to hate speech on campus? How do they negotiate the tensions between legally protected free speech and their imperative to protect students from harmful speech? This embedded single-case study examines the responses of 16 administrators at the University of Texas at Austin in the context of the post-2016 election hate speech environment and several free speech lawsuits faced by the university. Leveraging a conceptual framework that spans organizational theory, cultural analysis, and several forms of legal theory, the scholars forward the argument that a form of “repressive legalism” overdetermined the university’s responses to controversial speech and resulted in preventing it from pursuing inclusive practices.