Visit any college or university campus from UF to UCLA, and you'll find that many of the world's most pressing issues - from climate change to gun control to civil rights and more - are frequently and fervently debated. While there are driven and passionate followers of almost every ideology and philosophy on all sides of every issue, ensuring that everyone can enjoy their constitutional rights and safely, constructively, and fairly participate in discourse can be difficult. This is a challenge that Dr. David Parrott, the Higher Education Administrator at the University of Louisville, faces every day. While it is a challenge, it is one that Parrott believes lends itself to constructive progress for everyone - if handled correctly.
The Role of Universities in Promoting Equity
Colleges and universities have long been recognized as safe places where people with different ideas, ideals, beliefs, and philosophies can come together to learn from one another, discuss issues of mutual interest, and build a better future for everyone. The best schools strive to attract the best talent and the most promising candidates, and they are often home to the most interesting discourse, whether that be in the sciences, politics, economics, or otherwise. However, even amongst the intellectual elite, disputes and conflicts are not uncommon. As a lifelong leader, educator, and pioneer in the higher education space, David Parrott is all too familiar with how difficult it can be to make sure that these contentions - and any resultant discourse or action - take place within free, fair, and equitable bounds.
'Diversity and inclusion are crucial to our campus community,' Parrott recently said when he was the Vice President of Student Affairs at the University of Florida (UF), a position he held before joining the University of Louisville. 'We typically hear diversity used in reference to race, ethnicity, and gender identity. All of these are appropriate and important. Also important to a vibrant and inclusive campus community, however, is the diversity of thought.'
We can appreciate the kinds of provocative - even controversial and conflicting - views that can arise in the otherwise idyllic setting of the college campus by looking at some of the largest student-led movements of the last few decades. The Berkeley Free Speech Movement (1964), the Anti-War Teach-In Movement (1965), the Student Debt Protest (2013), and the Keystone XL Pipeline Protest (2014) were all powerful, student-led movements that started on college campuses.
Numerous other large-scale protests, particularly related to racial discrimination, sexual discrimination, insensitivity, and hate speech, also started on campuses across the country, especially over the last two decades, and they have been instrumental in establishing lines in the sand for the kinds of work that Parrott has been doing at institutions of higher learning for the better part of the last 30 years.
Handling Compliance Issues at UF, UofL, and Beyond
Embracing diversity of thought, fairness, transparency, and equity while maintaining compliance and compassion is not always easy, but it is something that Parrott has extensive experience in. While at UF, David Parrott said 'As a public institution, we are bound to uphold the First Amendment. UF supports the First Amendment, including by peaceful and lawful protest.'
Determining how and when - if ever - the bounds of peaceful protest are transgressed is something that educators, politicians, and lawmakers have struggled with for a long time. However, doing so can be exceedingly difficult, and it is a central part of Parrott's work in leading compliance efforts for fair and equitable education at the University of Louisville.
Some of this involves leadership and supervision, and some of it involves organizational development. A lot of it requires a deep understanding of the legal issues that apply to institutions of higher learning and effectively managing student conduct, student affairs, race relations, crises, and threats.
With relevant experience in a wide range of university leadership roles, from Department Head and Dean of Students to Associate Vice President and Vice President (and now Higher Education Administrator), David Parrott is a recognized thought leader and pioneer in the higher education space. He has helped guide policymaking, student affairs, and compliance for universities across the country, including the University of Louisville, University of Florida, Texas A&M University, Western Michigan University, and Western Kentucky University.
Dr. David Parrott's Accolades Reflect a Dedication to Higher Education
As a testament to his dedication to student equity, fairness, and conduct, David Parrott was formally recognized for his contributions to higher education when he was awarded the Donald D. Gehring Award in 2013 for his exceptional, long-term individual contributions to the field of student administration. In particular, Parrott's influence via presentations, leadership, innovation, research, publications, and mentoring were contributing factors to his selection for the award.
David Parrott said: 'As leaders at institutions of higher education, we have a special responsibility to promote the free exchange of ideas. Every student, faculty member, staff member, and myself, must demonstrate our university values of respect and inclusion in all that we do."
In saying so, David Parrott alludes to an ideal held dearly by many - not just in higher education but in politics and lawmaking as well: Freedom of speech applies to every opinion, not just the ones we agree with, and tolerance and respect must be exhibited at all times and with all groups, irrespective of religious beliefs, political ideologies, race, gender, age, disability status, or sexual orientation.
There are thousands of pages of rules, regulations, precedents, case studies, research papers, opinion pieces, books, and more on the many matters that instruct David Parrott's work as Higher Education Administrator at the University of Louisville. Part of his mandate is ensuring that his school does not discriminate against students in any way. Another part is understanding the institutional requirements for being compliant with the rules that apply to schools that receive public funding. Yet another aspect of Parrott's work is understanding the impact of different rules, laws, and processes as they apply to students, whether in their capacities as athletes, young adults, employees, or otherwise.
There are many challenges that David Parrott must contend with to ensure not just university compliance where compliance is necessary but the well-being of students, coaches, administrators, and others under his charge who are impacted by federal laws. Parrott's deep understanding of these rules and how they apply to different situations, contexts, and scenarios has set him apart as a true thought leader and advisor to higher education institutions. Whether we speak of the freedom of speech, sexual harassment in school settings, rooting out discrimination in admissions and scholarships, or ensuring fair and equitable participation for everyone in the higher education space, Dr. David Parrott's work guides these discussions. His work effectively maintains open, fair, and transparent discourse as well as the compliant implementation of all relevant rules and policies, and his work at the University of Louisville will likely be looked at by many in the field as a blueprint for how compliance and student affairs must be handled in today's turbocharged academic atmosphere.