Letters to the Editor

Letters: More respond to Ray Kelly controversy

By
Friday, November 1, 2013

I thank Professor of Biology Ken Miller ’70 P’02 for sharing how he was able to withstand the pleas of Holocaust survivors and walk past them to gain a lesson on the attractions of fascism from an American Nazi. I don’t think I could have done so. On the other hand, as a historian, I wouldn’t have needed that lesson. That said, I want to point out that every movement toward social justice in U.S. history has included “misbehavior.” “Misbehavior” is a tactic of the disempowered toward disrupting the status quo. Closing off discourse was not the protesters’ intention. A demand for a level playing field in that discourse was. I suspect that had Ray Kelly been invited to speak as part of a Janus Forum, it would not have roused nearly as much opposition, if any at all. So unlike Miller, I applaud the student protesters for their moral courage in a righteous cause against racial profiling and brutal police tactics and for their resolution in the face of the harsh criticisms they have since endured. I am proud of you. You inspire me to try to be a better teacher, scholar and person.

Naoko Shibusawa P’14, associate professor of history

 

Let’s face it: The overwhelming majority of people who berated the speaker and prevented other dissenting (but respectful) students from constructively debating “stop-and-frisk” did so not after thoroughly educating themselves about the nuances of the topic but because it’s the cool thing to do at Brown. It was the same way 10 years ago. I remember passing through an anti-sweatshop rally en route to a class as an undergrad and saying to somebody, “Where do you think the Nike sneakers and Gap sweater you’re wearing came from?”

Name-calling and obstructing legitimately curious people from having a meaningful dialogue accomplishes nothing except refuting the notion that people admitted to Brown are rational thinkers. Sadly, Brown has become the laughingstock of the Ivy League. You don’t need a high SAT score to make reductionist and unrefined statements like “cops are oppressive, racist assholes” or “Ray Kelly is a terrorist.” While on deployment with the military in Iraq (a war I opposed if that matters, but feel free to make assumptions about me), my team searched for a real terrorist, who had strapped a suicide vest to a mentally retarded child in a mosque — it’s a big deductive leap to equate Ray Kelly with someone like that.

Words matter, especially at the policy level, where real change occurs. Racial profiling sucks, but it’s not terrorism. Equating racial profiling with the generally accepted definition of terrorism hinders any effort to effectively remedy suspect policing. Brown students are supposed to be the best and the brightest, the future leaders of their communities and even the world. Simplifying complex issues into divisive sound bites is not the solution. Brown can do better.

Doug Kechijian ’02

 

The past few days have shown us the best and the worst parts of being part of the Brown community. We’ve seen people organize some incredible movements, win battles, lose battles, fight all over Facebook, find common ground with unexpected partners, agree, disagree and agree to disagree. We’ve yelled at each other, with each other, and many of us have even cried out of visceral emotion and frustration.

Tuesday afternoon, I was angry. I felt silenced by all the emotions around me and by my own conflicting feelings of allegiance to a variety of friends and communities. Sometimes it is best to be silent and to just listen.

The past few days, I’ve listened to people all over the spectrum of views on this campus. I’ve argued with some, and I’ve sat quietly and tried to understand others. Wednesday night, I sat in Alumnae Hall with 600 of my peers, and I listened some more. And I can honestly say that I have never been prouder to be a part of this community of Brunonians.

We are different colors. We are different genders. We come from so many different backgrounds and experiences. We are intellectuals, and we are protesters, and we are activists and thought-leaders, but first and foremost, we are one passionate community. And to be at a place where we can have these conversations, even while our differences persist, makes me prouder than I’ve ever been to call myself a Brown student.

Elena Saltzman ’16

 

Topics:
  • Bob from NY

    As I stated would happen, indeed happened. Judge shiendlin was not only,once again I might add overturned by unanimous decision, but was also unanimously,and strongly criticized AND kicked off the case. An unheard of sanction! The appeals panel found her to have been highly inappropriate in her handling of the stop and frisk hearing, from even before when she inappropriately lobbied to hear it so she could,as I said she did, ignore the evidence and statistical facts presented to rule based on her usual radical agenda. Did I mention she is one of the most overturned jurists in New York? The Supreme Court has upheld stop and frisk as constitutional remember. But Judge shiendlin was never one to let fact based evidence and the law to get in the way of her radical agenda. So the Nazi Brown Shirts of Brown owe an apology to Mr Kelly and the Brown student body who truly are the ones who believe in free speech and came to hear, and question this invited guest. As I’d stated before ,they came to listen, question and god forbid possibly learn. Who knows, Ray Kelly May have learned something from you, but thanks to some self absorbed,disruptive children we’ll never know. And to the above professor who hailed said children I ask this. I don’t agree with your teaching. Would you like me to A, listen, learn and question, or B, act like a boorish fool and disrupt your class and shout you down? If the answers scare you then don’t ask difficult questions. Obviously you’re too immature to handle them……schools out.

  • Bob from NY

    PS,please educate yourselfs on stop and frisk. It is NOT racial profiling. Those are just assumptions and a buzz word used by those with an uninformed agenda. Mr Kelly would have explained what it actually entails had he been allowed. THAT, is the danger of the free speech as long as it’s my speech crowd. Good for the courageous student body, on both the left and right who truly DO believe in free speech.

  • Mr. Softee

    Professor Shibusawa says “On the other hand, as a historian, I wouldn’t have needed that lesson.” Which means what exactly? Professor Miller (who happens to be a Brown alum himself) is somehow less educated or enlightened because he is a biologist? Maybe he’s not historian of american imperialism or whatever it is that you actually call yourself. But as a biologist he actual works on things that tangibly improve peoples lives as opposed to a historian who simply produces more paper. Once again you miss the larger point of why so many people are pissed off at you clowns. You keep yabering about police brutality, instititutional racism, yaddah, yaddah and claim no one is listening to you. That is an absolute lie. Plenty of people are listening to you. They just don’t all have to agree with you. People are pissed off because you clowns decided to shut down a lecture because you 1) didn’t like the speaker and 2) didn’t like the fact that the lecture wasn’t planned and organized according to your desires. What’s next Professor Shibusawa? How about you just let the students run your class.

    • Bob from NY

      And remember softee, they’re the same people who welcomed loony louey farrakook with open arms. Apparently, HE has something of value to say at Brown. How very hypocritically hip!

      • Mr. Softee

        They routinely invite speakers who are blatantly anti-semitic even though they claim they are only “anti-zionist” or “anti-capitalist” or “bolivarian” or whatever is the latest label for rooting out the cosmopolitan jewish influence. But you don’t see Brown’s jewish students shutting down lectures by yelling the loudest. But then, if they did, those same students would be treated the same by said thugs.

  • Alum Class of 2012

    Thank you Professor Shibusawa for your wonderful response! You inspire your former students as well!

    • Bob from NY

      A closed mind is a terrible thing to waste,right? TO HELL WITH THE FACTS,FULL STEAM AHEAD WITH OUR UNINFORMED AJENDA!!!! How ignorantly hip.

      • Bob

        Ten bucks says I’m discounted by some elitist because I misspelled agenda.

    • gman213

      Check back 20 years from now and see if you have the same moronic attitude.

  • gushma tush

    Chris Paxson has not held herself accountable for this debacle. It is her job to be held accountable, and she is not doing her job. Don’t hold your breath waiting for her to do so. Hers is turning out to be a disappointing appointment, just like her boss Larry Tisch’s.

    • zack

      Considering Larry Tisch has been dead for 10 years… yeah he hasn’t done much

  • Bobbo

    Personal attacks on the letter writers are not necessary. Here are some thoughts on this subject:
    1. Brown is not the laughing stock of the nation. Student protests and complaints occur at many top universities and often lead to a reevalution of many social and political issues (voting rights, Vietnam War, Divestment in Souh Africa, civil rights, etc). The Brown student protest has elevated the discussion of “stop and frisk” and urban policing practices to the forefront of discussion in the nation. So from that perspective, I am happy that Brown students voiced their displeasure at the speaker and his policies. Controversy, debate, and protest are all part of the American academic tradition.
    2. Despite my point above, I think that this speech and topic could have been addressed in a more thoughtful manner. Perhaps it would have been better to have a panel discussion that included various perspectives on the topic — including those represetned by law enforcement officials.
    3. The Brown Administration did have advanced notice that there could be signifncant opposition to Ray Kelly’s presence on campus–both from students and local Providence activists. Under the circumstances, the Administration could have put some “ground rules” in place regarding a time period for protest, a location for the protest and then a clear signal that the lecture would begin at a certain time, with objecting students free to continue the protest outside of the lecture location. The Taubman Center should have spent more time contemplating some ground rules for what should have been anticipated to be a highly charged atmosphere.
    4. I am an affluent white man. I have never been stopped or frisked by any police officer in my life. But I do know colleagues –both white and minority–who have been subjected to these procedures and some people had a very negative reaction to the procedure, particularly if they do not feel that police have any basis or probable cause to conduct the procedure. So while I do not have personal experience on this subject nor a strong emotional reaction to the topic, I can see how others might view Ray Kelly’s presence on campus as a basis to voice their opposition and conduct protests.

    • Mr. Softee

      “I can see how others might view Ray Kelly’s presence on campus as a basis to voice their opposition and conduct protests.” Which they did even if some of protests were silly (e.g. swastikas on posters). But then they decided to shut down the entire proceedings and, in the process, show gross disrepect for fellow students. Although it seems that some of people doing the shouting weren’t even students.

    • Doug Kechijian

      I respectfully disagree that the buzz generated by this incident positively impacts any nationwide dialogue on the subjects of racial profiling and abusive policing. It only strengthened the dogmatism by the extremists on both sides. People emotionally invested in the idea that law enforcement is inherently racist and oppressive will never change their minds nor are people who think it is acceptable to completely relinquish civil rights in the name of security amendable to reason. The balance between civil liberties and security, the real issue here, has and always will be controversial because there’s no perfect solution. It’s a balance that can be improved upon, but never “resolved”. This balance can only be struck by moderates, not extremists. The extremists here prevented the moderates from having a productive debate and we all suffered for it no matter how many headlines Brown has made. This whole thing is just so disappointing.

    • skeets11

      As a non-Brown observer let me assure you that the school is indeed viewed as a laughing stock. The general opinion is the protesters were nothing more than a bunch of rich, spoiled children incapable of making their point in a civilized manner.

  • Those Liberals…

    “Closing off discourse was not the protesters’ intention. A demand for a level playing field in that discourse was.” Are you kidding me Prof. Shibusawa? The protesters have some of the biggest media outlets of the U.S., the president, the courts and the public majority on their side. Apparently history doesn’t teach how to make decent comparisons. Of course “misbehavior” was always part of social change. But then again, do you really think it is fair to compare Gandhi’s, Mandela’s or MLK’s struggle of the 20th century to stop and frisk in the 21st? “Misbehavior” (nice euphemism btw) is a last resort and in the society we live in really not necessary to make a point.