The new chancellor of the University of Tennessee Knoxville laid out a lofty vision for the campus at a ceremony celebrating her new role late Friday.
After donning the official chancellor's medallion, Beverly Davenport said it's a challenging time to take over.
"The nation is divided. Our communities are divided. The world is divided," she said. "But education — and higher education, specifically — remains the surest path to solving the world's grand challenges."
She said UT will speak out against racism and fascism, a comment that garnered applause.
"We will open our campus to honest and informed intellectual debate. That's the fundamental hallmark of higher learning," she said, explaining that students decide for themselves what to believe on big issues.
Davenport will likely have to defend UT's commitment to these values to lawmakers early in her tenure. In recent months, some have accused UT of stifling conservative viewpoints, which the university system denies.
As the Tennessean reported in March, one state senator proposed creating an intellectual diversity office instead of one that promotes racial and cultural diversity.