Open Inquiry in the Liberal Arts Classroom


How do we approach the most important questions of the day while cultivating a classroom climate conducive to open inquiry and engaged learning for all of us?

This website was created to equip faculty, students, and staff with the tools to meet these challenges by relying on our strengths—excellent inclusive teaching, outstanding expert knowledge, and a college infrastructure that supports the ideals of the liberal arts.

This site has resources to support faculty and students in tense times by foregrounding four primary activities:

  • Prioritize inclusive, contextually rich learning environments
  • Know the principles, policies, and procedures surrounding academic freedom in the classroom
  • Be prepared to handle tense moments in the classroom
  • Take care of your well-being beyond the classroom

Inclusive Learning Environments

The most important step in ensuring open inquiry and academic freedom is to create an inclusive, contextually rich environment for learning where students trust instructors to prioritize learning for every member of the classroom community.


Find training opportunities at CSU to enhance your teaching for all students.

Resources and Readings

Browse this collection of readings to develop your knowledge of inclusive, open inquiry.

Principles of Community

Draw on the five principles that guide CSU’s engagement with one another inside the classroom and out.

Academic Freedom in the Classroom

A proactive faculty approach to protecting the discourse of the classroom means knowing your rights and responsibilities as a facilitator of free and open learning.

CSU Policies

CSU policies on classroom environments related to inclusion and academic freedom.

Faculty Academic Freedom

A CLA guide for faculty to learn how freedom of speech and academic freedom function in the classroom.

Student Academic Freedom

Student academic freedom guide: Students have rights and responsibilities around free inquiry, too.

Steps to Protect Freedom

Two quick sheets to help you identify best practices for handling contentious topics in the classroom.

Tense Moments in the Classroom

Identify the resources that support your teaching when tense moments arise in the classroom.

Classroom Strategies

Strategies and resources for tense moments in the classroom.

Open Door Pedagogy Network

Faculty in every CLA department you can consult informally on classroom issues that arise.

CLA Experts

A list of faculty with expertise in teaching and researching diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Well-Being and Care

Knowing the resources to support your own well-being and those available for students is key to protecting an open environment in the liberal arts classroom.

Faculty & Staff Wellness

Our collection of a range of CSU’s resources that support employees beyond their job duties.

Student Wellness Links

Links to offices around campus that support students’ well-being that you can draw on to guide students in need.

CSU & the Coronavirus

Updates with CSU policy and health resources related to the Coronavirus and COVID-19.


About the 2020 Initiative

This website is part of the 2020 Initiative, a project created by Ben Withers, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Colorado State University. A team of eight CLA faculty came together from January – August, 2020, to research and write guides and resource lists to support faculty in enhancing their classrooms to be inclusive spaces for open inquiry. The project included this website, the creation of the Open Door Pedagogy Network, and a series of department information and discussion sessions designed to foster conversation around inclusion, academic freedom, and well-being.

The goals of the initiative were to:

  • Recognize how academic freedom pertains in the classroom
  • Practice and apply effective approaches to handling difficult conversations
  • Identify current cultural/social issues and evaluate potential for impact
  • Better understanding of opportunities to address student, faculty, and staff wellness

The 2020 Initiative Team