About us

We Talk '21 logoThe purpose of We Talk is to foster a campus culture of responsible and respectful civic, social, political and policy engagement. We seek to raise awareness about free speech protections and promote the value of respecting viewpoint diversity as part of the academic setting and learning environment.

We Talk '21 is designed to build upon We Talk programming held in 2020 and will focus on building our skill sets and providing academic tools for having difficult conversations. 

We Talk program development is guided by the principles and practices of the Heterodox Academy, which is focused on improving the quality of research and education in universities by increasing open inquiry, viewpoint
diversity, and constructive disagreement.

Your donation can help provide vital support to this initiative. 

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Irshad Manji MacMillian Speakers Bureau headshot
Irshad Manji campus visit

September 20-21
Multiple events

A powerful author and speaker, Irshad Manji, will visit campus to help us all think differently about how we interact. A Uganda-born Canadian educator, Ms. Manji is the author of "Don't Label Me." Her work encourages young people to engage honestly about polarizing issues rather than shaming or canceling each other. She is also the founder of the Moral Courage Project, which teaches the art, science, and skills of inclusion—trading the us-against-them mindset for one that fosters introspection and self-confidence.

A campus/community event—Conversations in Divided Times—is planned for 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 21 on Sangren Plaza, in which Manji will give a short talk and then lead a panel discussion. The event is free, open to the public, and registration is encouraged to ensure compliance with COVID facility guidelines. Free parking is available after 4 p.m. in Lot 41 behind Sangren Hall. Map. Manji’s visit also will involve multiple meetings with students, faculty, staff, University leadership, and members of the wider Kalamazoo community. 

Visit info

Media voices

Public Media Network studio panelThe changing role of media in a free society: listen, learn and speak out

We invited local media representatives to share their views on the role the media plays in civil discourse, free speech and social dynamics in this panel discussion broadcast by Public Media Network on August 18. Stream it here.


Sue Ellen Christian, moderator, professor of communication and Presidential Innovation Professor

Mickey Ciokajlo, local news editor, MLive.com

Buddy Hannah, retired radio host, community storyteller

Aya Miller, editor-in-chief, Western Herald


Moving conversations @ WMU

A 40-minute, script-guided exercise between two people designed to facilitate compassion and connection. Developed by Dr. Doug Lepisto, the exercise is built upon principles of positive psychology and can be facilitated in classes, with groups and at home with family and friends. We Talk conducted a successful pilot of the exercise with staff in July 2021. Planning is underway for We Talk to host group sessions for students and employees to experience the exercise in fall. Register via the link below to receive first notification as dates are confirmed.


free speech cafes

Join us this fall in campus cafes for informal panel discussions about free speech rights and responsibilities. Topics and schedule
Campus free speech guide.

learn with us

Civil discourse begins with a personal understanding of interactions we have with family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers.  We need "tools for talking when the stakes are high," to borrow the subtitle of the book "Crucial Conversations." (see reading suggestions below). 

Western Michigan University is a member of the Heterodox Academy, an international organization that aspires to create college classrooms and campuses that welcome diverse people with diverse viewpoints and that equip learners with the habits of heart and mind to engage that diversity in open inquiry and constructive disagreement.  

Enjoy this thought-provoking Intentional Dialogue Guide about the difference between understanding and agreement.

Also available is the Bridging Difference Playbook, offering research-based strategies to promote positive dialogue and understanding.


Cover, Don't Label Me by Irshad ManjiDon't Label Me: How To Do Diversity Without Inflaming The Culture Wars. The most recent book of our fall keynote speaker, Irshad Manji. Check back here in late August for opportunities to read and discuss the book prior to Irshad's Sept. 20-22 campus visit.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, which is widely recognized as one of the most significant books on civil discourse, is one of the books We Talk will feature in 2021/2022 academic year programming. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to read it and discuss it with campus colleagues. Group book discussion opportunities are being planned. Learn more.

The fall 2020 We Talk common read was "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion," by Jonathan Haidt. Learn more. 

Talk to us

Would you like to get involved in the We Talk movement? To receive our mailings register here, or use the Contact Us form to communicate with us about civil discourse and free speech.

Coming soon: A campus expression survey. How safe do you feel expressing your views on campus? 

WMU is a member of the Heterodox Academy Higher Ed Leadership Community. The mission of Heterodox Academy is to improve the quality of teaching and research by increasing open inquiry, viewpoint diversity and constructive disagreement.

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