Black Lives Matter and So Does Free Speech

This afternoon, Provost Joyce Jacobsen, Vice-President Antonio Farias and I sent the following message to the student newspaper The Argus. Along with other faculty and staff, I am happy to discuss these issues with members of the campus community in the coming days and weeks.

 

Many students turned out for a powerful panel discussion on the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this week. The panelists underscored issues of structural racism in general and police brutality in particular. Earlier in the week The Argus published an op-ed that questioned whether “the [BLM] movement itself [is] actually achieving anything positive? Does it have the potential for positive change?” Many students took strong exception to the article; it was meant to be a provocative piece. Some students not only have expressed their disagreement with the op-ed but have demanded apologies, a retraction and have even harassed the author and the newspaper’s editors. Some are claiming that the op-ed was less speech than action: it caused harm and made people of color feel unsafe.

Debates can raise intense emotions, but that doesn’t mean that we should demand ideological conformity because people are made uncomfortable. As members of a university community, we always have the right to respond with our own opinions, but there is no right not to be offended. We certainly have no right to harass people because we don’t like their views. Censorship diminishes true diversity of thinking; vigorous debate enlivens and instructs.

In the long run, Wesleyan will be a much more caring and inspiring community when we can tolerate strong disagreements. Through our differences we can learn from one another.

 

Michael Roth, President

Joyce Jacobsen, Provost

Antonio Farias, Vice-President for Equity and Inclusion

 

*9/20/15: Edited to reflect that the piece in The Argus was an op-ed, not a Wespeak.

50 thoughts on “Black Lives Matter and So Does Free Speech

  1. As a faculty member I want to express my full agreement with the foregoing statement. A university, particularly one that so prides itself on openness and diversity as does Wesleyan, must be a place where views of all kinds can be expressed, debated, and sometimes vigorously disagreed with, but such views must not be suppressed on the grounds that some people find them offensive. That would make honest discussion impossible.

  2. The biggest problem with treating this as a freedom of speech issue is that this speech actively silences other speech. I’ve been so happy with The Wesleyan Argus response in the last few days and then to see something like this from the president of the University is pretty surprising. It’s arguably very surface level engagement to decontextualize this situation and look at freedom of speech in the scope of one article’s written message instead of the implicit message that is coming with it being printed.

    Also, backing up for a minute, the article remains online and was published in full. There was literally no censorship. And the Vice-President for Equity and Inclusion signing this post too is a pretty strange and unfortunate move.

  3. Then how do you combat ideas rooted in bigotry in a liberal arts institution? As you said “Through our differences we can learn from one another”, what am I supposed to have learned from the recent argus op-ed article, other than the fact there exists students who believes that institutionalized racism doesn’t exist (“I would like to hear about specific instances of institutional and personal racism. I keep hearing that the former exists, but no one will tell me what it is.” Stascavage, December 2014) or that women who are raped while drunk are not actually raped because the guy was drunk too (“in a balanced system, where consent is a two-way street, neither side could give consent because they have both been intoxicated”, Stascavage Nov, 2014)? The students have been respecting the student’s freedom of speech and the Argus’ freedom of press; but how much do we need to tolerate before it starts to offend other people?

    The reason why students and alums are frustrated with the recent argus op-ed piece is not only because the article itself was bad (based on distorted facts), but also, because of the Argus’ inability to censor articles rooted in ignorance and hate. The author of that op-ed didn’t publish his perspective on facebook or twitter, rather, his perspective on BLM was published in the Argus for everyone to read, including people who have been personally affected by police brutality and student activists who have been dedicating their energy and time on organizing events on and off campus. Some of the quotes from his article are: “Hence, my concerns that the movement is not legitimate, or at the very least, hypocritical.”, “But it is plausible that Black Lives Matter has created the conditions for these individuals to exploit for their own personal gain.” (referring to people who targets cops), “If vilification and denigration of the police force continues to be a significant portion of Black Lives Matter’s message, then I will not support the movement, I cannot support the movement.” Basically, the author said that BLM tolerates extremists who kill police in revenge and this line of argument is tantamount to what islamophobic people say that Muslim beliefs and practices tolerate terrorist acts, which is completely wrong.

    To argue, from the administration’s point of view, that the argus did the right thing by simply stating that the school promotes diversity in perspectives and the protection of a freedom of speech is nothing but a coward approach to appease the controversy surrounding this issue. The op-ed article isn’t provocative, it perpetuates the Euro-centric mind to “teach” and “tell” people of color what is right and wrong, it discourages the activists and supporters of BLM movement on campus, and it delegitimatizes the work they have done so far. In addition to a recent op-ed article, the Argus has not been supportive of the BLM movement on campus, it barely covered various events and discussions that happened (just uploading pictures of the events) and even these pictures centered on white allies rather than poc student activists.

    The author of the op-ed had a plenty of opportunities to educate himself on what BLM movement is and why it is important on campus. And it is not the poc community’s responsibility to explain to the author why his article was hurtful; rather, he should educate himself. The student body shouldn’t tolerate hateful ignorance on campus, and so shouldn’t the school.

  4. I commend the authors for their defense of ideological heterogeneity. An open platform of ideas is the only way to adequately address the issues that surround us, and it is reassuring that high-ranking Wesleyan administrators seek to protect it.

    The notion that articles such as Stascavage’s Op-Ed displaces people of color from contributing or discourages them from contributing to the Argus is blatantly false. People of color have been and continue to be welcome to write for the Argus just as much as anybody else.

    One of the greatest flaws of the Argus is that it, quite frankly, is rather dilute. Seldom are there hard-hitting, controversial articles that incite critical examination. Not that I would expect every article to be like this, but most of my peers who do not read it simply don’t want to sift through all the clutter.

    Disagreement with the content of an article is fine. Trying to limit the propagation of an article is not, especially at an institution that prides it itself on academic integrity.

    I am glad to see that President Roth, unlike many of my fellow students, is willing to defend the ability of students to voice heterodox perspectives.

  5. Aren’t activists, by definition, taking a stand on something, in opposition to others who stand differently on whatever issue they’re an activist for? There wouldn’t be much need for activists if there wasn’t another side to oppose, after all. Thus, criticizing the stand of an activist movement is well in the range of what is to be expected. Insisting that some activist group must not have any opposition be allowed to be disseminated, for fear of “silencing” them or making less of a “safe space” for them, would have the effect of making them no longer activists at all, but rather an entrenched establishment tolerating no dissent. There would then be a desperate need for an underground activist movement to form opposing them!

  6. “but how much do we need to tolerate before it starts to offend other people?”

    All of it. You need to tolerate all of the speech, even when it starts to offend other people.

  7. The people here advocating for censorship all seem to feel that they should be appointed censor. What happens when your ideas are deemed to be unacceptable?

  8. Michael,
    Thank you for your response to this criticism of the newspaper. Freedom of speech is necessary if universities are to be places of learning and for students to acquire the habits of mind needed in a democratic society.

  9. The solution to offensive speech is more speech. That’s the Wesleyan tradition. Thank you, President Roth, from a former Argus editor for standing up for the First Amendment.

  10. “… there is no right not to be offended” Clearly the President doesn’t belong on a modern college campus. Delicate snowflakes must be protected.

  11. The remedy for speech you don’t like is more speech. If you accept a move to silence others, eventually, inevitability, you will find yourself silenced as well.

  12. “…even when it starts to offend other people.”

    ESPECIALLY when it starts to offend other people. When it hurts, you know it’s working.

  13. “The students have been respecting the student’s freedom of speech and the Argus’ freedom of press; but how much do we need to tolerate before it starts to offend other people?”

    Well, I find your view that we should suppress free speech to avoid offense itself offensive. I don’t want to tolerate it. Do I have the right to shut you up?

  14. “Basically, the author said that BLM tolerates extremists who kill police in revenge.” Which is demonstrably true. Go to youtube and search for “pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon” and “what do we want, dead cops” and watch videos of hundreds of BLM marchers chanting those slogans. Not one or two extremists, hundreds. So Michael, I find your comment hateful and ignorant, so does that mean we get to censor you? As Dave Knight warns, once we get to define simple speech as “hate” and thereby ban it, you need to worry about who gets to set the definition.

  15. While you will find no bigger defender of free speech than me, I can say with full confidence that this is hate speech and an investigation into hate crimes charges is warranted. I have no doubt that many women, minorities, and gays are in fear that their university will not protect them from the Republican criminal vermin that hate universities and want to destroy them because Republicans know they cannot win in the free trade of ideas. the Black Lives Matter movement is dedicated to the protection of minority men from the wanton shootings at the hands of the police force, and to question them is to advocate for the hate-filled days of Jim Crow and slavery, which are hate crimes deserving of jail time and re-education.

  16. If the simple fact that others have opposing viewpoints and express those views make individuals feel unsafe, then, those individuals will never feel safe. So some commentator has a different view of race or sexual harassment on campus, they have the right to express those views. Frankly it terrifies me that many on the campus believe that opposing views should not be tolerated. I feel unsafe knowing others seek to silence those with whom they disagree, and they believe they have a right not to have their views questioned. The generation in university now has very strong authoritarian impulses, and many do not understand the concept of free speech or respect for those with whom they disagree. That is never a good sign for a society. However frightened for the republic I may be, I stand by the rights of others to express any view I find offensive, as I do not believe there is a right to feel perpetually comfortable within our constitution.

  17. There is no organization squelching free speech and intimidating others than the Black Lives Matter organization. It requires carte blanche for a skin color and labels anyone who refuses to yield racist. It’s a terrorist organization.

  18. I am a graduate of Wesleyan and an educator. I am proud and profoundly relieved to have read the statement of President Roth, Provost Jacobsen, and Vice-President Farias.

    Wesleyan is not the only institution to grapple with the issue of speech that some (justifiably or not) find to be intolerable or hurtful. Last January the University of Chicago published the Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression. Perdue and Princeton have adopted the Chicago position. The following are excerpts from that report:

    “To this end, the University has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.”

    “In a word, the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the University’s educational mission.”

    Hanna Holborn Gray was the first woman to serve as President of Yale and then was the first woman to serve as President of the University of Chicago. She is quoted in the report as having once observed that: “education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think. Universities should be expected to provide the conditions within which hard thought, and therefore strong disagreement, independent judgment, and the questioning of stubborn assumptions, can flourish in an environment of the greatest freedom.”

    I am sure that most of us are moved by concerns about the harms that hurtful speech can have. It is concerns about the greater harms that result from “protecting” people from ideas that must be given priority.

    As an aging observer it is interesting (and a little bit disturbing) to witness university administrations protecting the right of free expression from suppression by students. I was much more comforted by the future prospects of a world where it was the other way around. But it is the job of educators to educate. Congratulations to these Wesleyan educators for being committed not just to tolerance, but also to the essential process of the hashing out of ideas.

  19. The solution to the problems of free speech is more free speech, and the students who advocate to suppress it need to look to the history of this country. Any time a group of people achieve a certain amount of authority, they take steps to suppress opposition to the free discussion of their views. When the patriot minority took control of central Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War, they passed laws making it illegal to speak out against any of its decisions. Citizens were jailed without trial, stripped of possessions, even executed. Read up on the Alien and Sedition Act of the 1800s, and the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, which was a revolt against the same speech codes you favor.

    Heed the words of H.P. Lovecraft, who was a racist for most of his life before changing his views: “[Debate] enables us to teat our own opinions and amend them if we find them in any way erroneous or unjustified. One who never debates lacks a valuable chart or compass in the voyage for truth—for he is likely to cherish many false opinions along with sound ones for want of an opportunity to see each opinion viewed from every possible angle. I have modified many opinions of mine in the course of debate, and have been intensely grateful for the chance of doing so.”

  20. Chris Caines argues that ” the problem with treating this (oped) as a freedom of speech issue is that this speech actively silences other speech”. He first, does not describe how any BLM activist’s speech has been prevented or censored by the oped. He secondly, advocates for silencing the opinion which was published, and now doesn’t understand that this is a free speech issue. His understanding is either embarrassingly shallow or particularly subjective, but he is effectively calling for real censorship in order to prevent potential censorship.
    And as far as Michelle Lee is concerned, the fact that she believes in institutional racism, in the inherent helplessness of all women compared to any man (a sexist position), in the racist argument that only black lives matter when dealing with police violence (since ‘all lives matter’ is unacceptable), and in the racist proposition that “people of color” (whatever that means) are incapable of participating and enjoying “euro-centric” Western Civilization, all despite how offensive these ideas are to a large number of people. Then the bigot (from a certain point of view) asks how to combat bigotry. If you don’t want to tolerate ‘hateful ignorance’, you don’t belong at an institution dedicated to curing ignorance and providing tools for combating it. It’s going to be all around you.
    The only proper response to speech you don’t like is to speak back. If your feelings are hurt, tough. It’s not like you care all that much about anyone else’s feelings when you call them these kind of names.

  21. I think “Black Lives Matter” deserves a forum, but there also needs to be a forum for “Black Crimes Matter” to off-balance the idea that the only wrongdoers are the police and white people. Even Martin Luther King Jr, Jesse Jackson, and other black leaders have spoken about the high incidence of black crime numbers, numbers that are replicated in other countries (like the UK), so it’s not just a US problem. As long as we don’t balance our discussions with both sides of the issues, a problem we’ve had with racial discussions, we’ll never arrive at some form of truth.

  22. “Then how do you combat ideas rooted in bigotry in a liberal arts institution?”

    Simple, Ms. Lee. You get that two-cycle weed-wacker engine of a brain you have in gear and rebut those ideas you regard as bigoted.

  23. “Black Lives Matter” is joining rap culture as justifications for a revival of racism. In my opinion, that is probably not a good thing.

  24. “How about the time I heard one student call rape, a ‘hot Cosby’? Isn’t that violent speech?”

    What’s violent about the speech? In what way does it bruise the hearer or draw blood, or otherwise damage his or her corporeal integrity?

    Speech that merely offends is not violent. The impulse to redefine the word “violence” to include absolutely everything one happens to find unpleasant, damages the integrity of language.

  25. Free and Truthful Speech: “13 – 50 – 90.” That’s what you need to know if black lives matter. 13% of the population commits 50% of the murders and 90% of those they murder are other black people.

    If black lives matter then the community needs to start addressing the problem of black on black violence. Hard to understand how a movement called “Black Lives Matter” can ignore the leading cause of death among young black men in the U.S., which is homicide by their peers. I’ll believe that black lives matter when blacks start acting like black lives matter.

  26. “I disagree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire

  27. Some students at Wesleyan University believe in punishing thought crimes of which they don’t approve, and limiting free speech to speech that doesn’t offend them. And they cannot understand why a university president would support free speech.
    Perhaps there is a more appropriate school for them than Wesleyan University. May I suggest Playtime Preschool Academy, just down the street from Wesleyan?

  28. “Liberal” views are very fragile and delicate “ideas” which must be protected at any cost given how very young they are, only a few hundred years old (a second in human thought process). As we can see from our very recent history and what is happening today, the natural state of man is the state of war (Thomas Hobbs understood this very well at the dawn of the enlightened idea). I am thrilled and honoured that my son has started studying at Wesleyan, a very special and unique place in this Un-Enlightened world.

  29. Michael Roth, Antonio Farias and Joyce Jacobson. Reading through these comments is enough to see that you have offended and hurt people who have faced violence through structural racism (including police brutality) and have opened up the floor for white supremacist rhetoric that vilifies and demonizes people who are fighting against police brutality which by the way are often people who have been affected by it!
    I ask you all to please take down this post. The discussion of free speech can happen in a more respectful way especially for the students who Roth and Farias purportedly support when they organize and show up at events such as the “After Charleston: Where do we go from here” event. But it is clear Roth did not pay attention at the event. His blog post does not even name the event nor the speakers. As usual, he paints what was said at the event as some monolithic racialized angry voice and contradicts what Bree Newsome said: “it’s not just about police brutality”.
    Please, in the principle of respect for the students of color on campus, and a continued discussion of what to do since the shooting in Charleston, take down this post. This post and comments forum has not added anything to the conversation, and there is no one you are protecting here- you’re protecting a principle that is not even practiced on campus, rather than the students, faculty, and staff. Your speech has not been restricted Roth, learn to keep quiet sometimes.

  30. How refreshing (and surprising) to see the university president stand up for free speech. I am offended by the violence advocated by too many in the “BLM” movement. I defend their right to free speech. I do not defend their right to advocate violence against police. Therefore, I demand the BLM be censored immediately for offending me. For leftist students needing interpretation because you are no longer taught how to think OR tolerance, I’m kidding.

  31. On the contrary, Danielle, this post has served to indicate to Wesleyan students, staff, faculty, and alumni—and to the general public— that the Wesleyan administration stands behind the principle of free speech and will not assent to the demands to cut funding to the Argus as a consequence of an editorial that offended some.

    A fuller discussion of the particularities of the debate on Wesleyan’s campus might have obscured the assertion of this basic commitment, and I’m certain more such discussion is forthcoming, on campus and off, official and unofficial.

    As for your assertion that this brief statement characterized “what was said at the event as some monolithic racialized angry voice,” please read it again. The sentence addressing the forum you reference reads as follows: “The panelists underscored issues of structural racism in general and police brutality in particular.” This is simply an assertion of what topics were discussed. There is no allegation, or implication, of a “monolithic racialized angry voice.” I am bewildered that you could have interpreted it as such.

    As a Wesleyan alum, I am frankly embarrassed that some students seem so eager to take offense that it gets in the way of basic comprehension. I’m likewise embarrassed that some students appear to see administration censorship as the solution to the expression of opposing arguments. Surely the very poorly-argued Argus editorial presents no real threat to the BLM movement and its sympathizers; indeed, it affords the activists in that movement an opportunity to clarify their perspectives and goals for the benefit of all.

    I’m hopeful that the great majority of current Wesleyan students and faculty agree with President Roth’s statement and that this is, essentially, a tempest in a teapot brought about by a small number of students who don’t accurately represent progressive activists on Wesleyan’s campus—a tradition of which I’m proud to have been a part.

  32. Let’s just say it’s ironic that you have Wesleyan students who support the extremist, anti-Semitic Students for Justice in Palestine suggesting that people who make other people feel “unsafe” should be censored.

  33. BLM is a time waster. Those hours in the street might have been put in helping to build and to bring sub par housing online. Imagine all the people that could have been helped. On a personal level- which does more for my family- spending the day painting my apartment or clogging the streets. I think that ebt-food stamps should be cut off per protesters- use facial recognition software. For a protesters incurs police overtime- well there is $142 right there. The movement is nothing. Occupy went on for over a year and a much bigger base- and what came of it? Fergossin- racked up $12 million in police costs- that could have been a brand new school. People- no one is going to give you a house- a car and free college. You have to make things happen. The shootings will not stop – because there are no dads in the household, and the thugs refuse to use basic manners. Being polite will let you live another day. Notice none of these guys are ever shot at work…. BLM is a pathetic victemhood cult.

    The other extreme in PA was on the Eric Freim manhunt- the cop killer- NE PA was on lock down for weeks. $19 million was spent on cops galore- here too- that cash would have build us a new school. Martial law was in place and folks not allowed in their own homes. Even worse is the factions of those for and against such a lock down.

    I dont like either scenario.
    Young folks from fatherless homes need to learn civility.

  34. @Danielle
    You are an egregious example of the problem. BLM no longer speaks for black lives, but the special interests of a fringe, and this seems to be the opinion of many, including blacks (whose lives have been hurt by the increase in crime in places like Ferguson and Baltimore). And what do you suggest? You write, “Please…take down this post. …learn to keep quiet sometimes.”

    This post has added much to the conversation, as did the original op-ed. There are points to engage with, and facts to be fact checked. But you’re seem to only be interested in narrowing your focus. Too bad, but luckily, your kind is being exposed with increasing frequency (check out the piece in The Atlantic, and see comments by Obama and even Richard Sherman about free speech and BLM).

    I’d also say that your absence of engagement and penchant for censorship makes me wonder if you lack the ability to reason. Mao’s China had a place for you as a Red Guard, you would have been an eager participant.

    @Roth, President/Joyce Jacobsen, Provost/Antonio Farias

    Thanks you for your support of speech, debate, and the exchange of ideas. Let’s hope most of your students take advantage. (Danielle?)

  35. Excellent, a university president who actually understands free speech, diversity of ideas, and stands up to the how dare you say that fascists. Some of the commentors here have a lot to learn though, especially ones like Michelle Lee.

  36. Irony that the birth of the Free Speech Movement from the womb of University and College students is now threaten with death by their own creators because they are uncomfortable. People died to bring about free speech at Universities but because you are in a comfortable dorm with your well groomed POV, now live by the motto: I know what I know and that is all that matters.

  37. I was drawn to this page from an op-ed in The Atlantic. If the idea of a movement is to censor, intimidate and harass, it is no better than the institution against which it is fighting, regardless of the movement’s aims. The high road is to offer a point-by-point rebuttal of what appears to be an article short on facts. Students, I would encourage you to have rational discussions with people who possess differing points of view. Challenge one another. Learn from your differences. Suffice it to say, the tactics used by students in this episode once they have left campus will be frowned upon, to say the least. Please use this as a teachable moment. Let us get past the censorship and the name calling that is polluting both sides of this debate. Let us find rational solutions and points of agreement. Bravo to President Roth.

  38. Wow!! Amen !! Thank you Wesleyan University and Prof Roth !!

    From someone who has been to the “Agora”. Jane Z

  39. Change “man” to “person”, and Oliver Wendell Holmes’s dissent in the Abrams case (in which American citizens were convicted for speaking out against WWI) rings as true today as it did in 1919. Holmes explains both why the desire to block speech we disagree with is so powerful, and why it’s such a bad idea.
    ————————–
    “Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power, and want a certain result with all your heart, you naturally express your wishes in law, and sweep away all opposition. To allow opposition by speech seems to indicate that you think the speech impotent, as when a [man] says that [he] has squared the circle, or that you do not care wholeheartedly for the result, or that you doubt either your power or your premises. But when [men] have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas — that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That, at any rate, is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year, if not every day, we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system, I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.”

  40. “Let’s just say it’s ironic that you have Wesleyan students who support the extremist, anti-Semitic Students for Justice in Palestine suggesting that people who make other people feel “unsafe” should be censored.”

    Daniel Shmidtz, thank you. I would be very afraid to be a Wesleyan student now, both as a Jew and as a supporter of free speech. Honestly, I don’t think I’d apply to Wesleyan now, seeing how downhill it’s gone.

    And nice work at completely missing the point, Danielle.

  41. Thanks President Roth for reaffirming the right for all ideas to be heard, even if they may offend some. As an alum, I was particularly horrified on the radio to hear “neglecting to provide a safe space for the voices of students of color” as the rationale for defunding the Argus. Journalism isn’t about providing safe spaces, it is about free exchange of information and ideas. Unfortunately, the response of the petitioners just provides more ammunition for those who mock liberals for being able to dish it out but not take it.

  42. Congratulations to President Roth for not kowtowing to political correctness and the suppression of free speech, as so many university presidents do.

    “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”
    ― William F. Buckley Jr.

  43. As the parent of a current Wesleyan student, I was gratified to see Pres. Roth’s statement, joined by other administrative leaders of the University. Including, notably, the Vice Pres. for Diversity and Inclusion. Managing the various stakeholders of any university is never easy. The strong statement supporting free expression of ideas, without fear of intimidation, is welcome. The statement could have been stronger, however, in making clear there was nothing remotely racist in the original op-ed piece. The op-ed piece was overly long, meandered quite a bit, and personally I think attributed way too much influence on individual activity to the BLM movement. But, there is nothing racist in discussing in an open manner whether the approach of a particular organization is counterproductive. I would hope the Wesleyan administration would make that point clear, as well.

    As for my child at Wesleyan, regrettably, I would simply advise to be very reluctant to engage in any comparable debates. The danger of being castigated publicly seems to be way too high.

  44. President Roth, thank you for your clear defense of free speech. Many campus administrations cave in to pressure as difficult or unpopular speakers are driven out of their community.

    Anyone advocating the suppression and harassment of opposing viewpoints does not understand the benefit of hearing an opposing view. Truth is nourished in vigorous debate; lies, mistrust and ignorance grow like fungus in a closed, intolerant arena.

  45. The Administration’s statement and the debate it inspired are both rare and very encouraging. I often felt challenged, offended, and even unsafe intellectually when at Wesleyan, and look back on that time as one of great growth that I would not want to deny to anyone.
    Jan de Wilde ’68

  46. Indeed it’s refreshing in this day to find some university officials that will not tow the line for the extremists on the left end of the spectrum. College campuses in general have become very hostile places for students that hold traditional American values. White males have become a minority on most campuses and anything that is related to European-origin Americans seems to be the target of many of these so-called “activists”. This, done by any group other than a liberal one, would be correctly labeled as racists itself. We should tolerate their speech, but not their violent actions, or their push to silence any vocal oppositions to their views and actions. Much of the Black Lives matter movement is criminal and should be targeted by law enforcement as such. Period!

  47. I with many others fully support the administration’s statement, but at the same time I trust that Danielle and Michelle will understand that this should in is no way mean that we do not also support their right to express their viewpoint and to engage in open discussion. The marketplace of ideas can be a rough place, but disagreement should not be taken as an attempt to silence. That is what a liberal education in general, and certainly Wesleyan’s in particular, should always be about. They should be undertaking a refutation of the op-ed with which they disagree, not objecting to it being published at all.

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