Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler sent the following message to William & Mary students on Oct. 16, 2023. – Ed.

Dear William & Mary Students,

One of the core benefits of being a member of a university community is the ability to engage intellectually and critically with new ideas and to expand awareness of our role in promoting democracy. Learning how to express our viewpoints, engage counter-arguments constructively and move toward effective action are core to the William & Mary student experience. This is particularly important as we head into another election season and at a time of intense international conflict.

While that discourse can be uncomfortable, there are tools and guiding principles that can be applied that offer us appropriate options when we encounter speech that unsettles us. These responses can include engaging in constructive dialogue with those holding oppositional views, organizing counter-programming that publicly presents a different perspective, or simply ignoring the speech that you find offensive. What can never be tolerated at William & Mary is property damage, physical confrontation or other violations of the law and/or Code of Student Conduct. In this community, such conduct is addressed as a disciplinary matter and referred for criminal prosecution, if appropriate.

Civic dialogue and engagement are learned skills, ones you will explore in your classrooms, student organizations, living environments and service commitments. William & Mary offers a wealth of opportunities and resources to learn how to become more effectively engaged, and be able to confront ideas, not people:

  1. Office of Community Engagement
  2. Student Unions & Engagement
  3. Student Leadership Development
  4. W&M Democracy Initiative
  5. Self-Governance in Residence Halls
  6. Dean of Students Office

In addition, all members of the William & Mary community have free access to the Constructive Dialogue Institute’s online learning program, Perspectives, an evidence-based tool that fosters empathy and mutual understanding across differences. It is designed to help you better understand yourself and others, and to equip you with the skills to engage in constructive dialogue. The program consists of six interactive lessons that each take about 20 minutes to complete. All members of our community are invited to sign-up and access the first two Perspectives lessons using the access codes linked below. The remaining four lessons will be available after November 1. New students received their access codes over the summer. Questions can be directed to

I hope you’ll make use of these resources. Skills in democratic engagement that you develop at William & Mary will strengthen your relationships with others and amplify your impact in the world for years to come.


Ginger Ambler

Vice President for Student Affairs

Co-Chair, W&M Democracy Initiative

William & Mary