Columns

Organizers and supporters of the demonstration against Ray Kelly: Standing for racial justice: A public statement

By
Guest Columnists
Monday, November 11, 2013

We are students who organized and supported the Oct. 29 demonstration against the University’s decision to provide a speaking platform to New York City Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly. We continue to stand by our actions and the anti-racist goals that motivated them.

In view of the denunciations we have received from President Christina Paxson, media outlets and other students, we put forth this statement to tell our side of the story on why and how we organized.

First, we organized because students have a right to feel safe at their university. Many Brown students who oppose racial profiling bring their past and continuing experiences of police harassment to the discussion and feel genuinely unsafe around proponents and enactors of these policies. It is unacceptable to invite a speaker to campus who makes students feel threatened or intimidated. Our demonstration was an act of self-defense. We protected our rights to feel safe on the campus we now call home.

We remain unconvinced that this lecture would have permitted a free exchange of ideas. Kelly was invited to deliver a lecture as a part of the the Noah Krieger ’93 Memorial Lecture. The lecture claims to feature individuals who have made “distinguished contributions to public service.” Accordingly, Kelly’s racial profiling policies were framed as “proactive policing,” without so much as a mention of their unconstitutionality.

The event was designed as a lecture to give Kelly the primary voice in the room, guaranteeing that any alternative perspective would be placed in a position of lesser power and authority. In providing Ray Kelly this undisputed speaking platform, the event threatened and silenced the very voices that could have opposed him and highlighted the human toll of racial profiling. It became clear to us that the event could not foster dialogue but instead only implicate the University’s complicity in the legitimization of systemic racist policies that target and criminalize communities of color.

Given the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions’ reputation and influence in public policy discourse both on a local and national level, the center’s implicit message of condoning violent police practices had repercussions far beyond Brown. In fact, many of our community partners voiced this very concern.

In the end, we decided only collective action would protect the rights of students and the larger Providence community and enable us to participate in discussions from a position of equal power and without fear. Our action was also a part of the larger movement against Ray Kelly’s racist policies. We protested in solidarity with anti-racism organizations both in Providence and New York, including Direct Action for Rights and Equality, Providence Youth Student Movement, People’s Justice and CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities.

On Thursday Oct. 24, students and Providence community members from DARE and PrYSM came together to express concerns over Ray Kelly’s invitation to campus. We collectively drafted a petition with the demands that (1) the lecture be cancelled, (2) Kelly’s honorarium be donated to organizations working to end racial profiling and police brutality in Providence and New York and (3) Taubman’s decision-making process for inviting speakers be more transparent in the future.

The next day, the petition began circulating. At 3 p.m., a group of student organizers delivered the petition with more than 300 signatures of Brown students, alums and Providence community members to a staff member at the Taubman Center. Marion Orr, director of the Taubman Center, agreed to speak over the phone the next day.

Orr spoke to a group of organizers over speaker phone the next morning and stated that the event was designed to be a lecture and that he was not aware that students were upset that Ray Kelly was invited to campus.

One organizer voiced her concern that Taubman’s event “isn’t a form of debate,” and that “it’s impossible for the person who’s behind oppressive policing tactics to have an equal discussion with the people who are dealing with it on the ground.”

Orr replied that he understood the point that “this structure doesn’t allow a back and forth. It wasn’t really designed for that purpose.” He also mentioned that there would be a meeting on Monday with Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, to talk about the petition. He said that he could not guarantee a spot for the organizers at the meeting but told us to contact Klawunn.

The next day, one organizer was allowed to attend the meeting with Klawunn, Orr and others to discuss the petition. Klawunn and Orr said that the lecture would allot 40 minutes for question-and-answer instead of the previously allotted 15 minutes. They also said a conversation would begin in the Taubman Center about the transparency of its speaker policy but have yet to follow up on this promise.

Despite these concessions, our core concerns about the lecture format and student safety were not met. We were compelled to continue collecting signatures and to send a clear message to Ray Kelly on the day of the lecture that his racist policies would not go unchallenged.

On the night before the lecture, we held a peaceful vigil on the steps of Faunce House in remembrance of victims who have lost their lives to racially motivated incidents of police brutality. During the vigil, Providence residents, members of DARE and Brown students shared their personal experiences with racial profiling.

At this point, the petition had collected over 590 signatures. Organizers and supporters met after the vigil to discuss tactics for Tuesday’s demonstration. Our plan involved the reading of a collective statement and individual testimonies throughout the lecture. During the question-and-answer session, demonstration supporters would share their stories and challenge Ray Kelly with questions. Though our petition had called for the event’s cancellation, our original plan was not to shut down the lecture but to reclaim the power in the lecture hall by giving voice to our stories.

On the day of the lecture, we held a non-violent rally outside List Art Center and handed out informational sheets on racial profiling to people heading into the building. We also performed a reenactment of students’ experiences with racial profiling on Brown’s campus as documented by the 2006 Coalition for Police Accountability and Institutional Transparency. We hoped this would contextualize our organizing in the history of racial justice activism at Brown.

A subset of organizers and supporters entered the lecture as audience members. The first two rows in the auditorium were reserved for “community members,” almost all of whom were white male police officers, including Providence Commissioner of Public Safety Steven M. Pare. After Ray Kelly was introduced, supporters of the demonstration stood up, raised their fists and read the following collective statement: “Asking tough questions is not enough. Brown is complicit. If Brown won’t recognize it, then we must. We stand in solidarity with the Providence anti-racism movement and all those impacted by racial profiling.”

One of us proceeded to stand up and read a personal narrative. Ray Kelly began to speak. Then a community member stood up to read a personal narrative. These staggered testimonies continued for several minutes. When the executive director of DARE stood up to speak, he was approached by a woman who told him to be quiet. Emotions in the room intensified. Comments by both administrators and students caused an escalation of responses. This eventually led Klawunn to cancel the event and ask everyone to leave the auditorium. We stood up to read the collective statement once more before exiting.

In Brown’s history, student voices have been critical in pushing the University to adopt the progressive and open-minded approach to education that it currently boasts. The establishment of the ethnic studies program, the Africana Studies Department, the Third World Center, the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, need-blind admission and even the implementation of the Open Curriculum were all results of battles won through student activism and organizing.

This demonstration against racial profiling has similarly pushed against the status quo and sparked conversations on the issue of racism at Brown, in Providence and beyond. We also hope it has forced the administration to reexamine Brown’s complicity in systemic racism. As we move forward, we hope to continue these conversations in ways that hold the University accountable to its students and the wider Providence community.

 

The authors hope that this account can spark dialogue around racial justice and push Brown to create a safer environment for students, increase transparency and work with the wider Providence community to end racial profiling and police brutality.

The authors’ names have been kept private due to their concerns about possible punishment from the University. 

A previous version of this column incorrectly referred to the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence. In fact, the organization was recently renamed CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities. The Herald regrets the error.

Topics:
  • end racial profiling

    Great statement. Wonderful. Can already tell this is going to be a stupid comments section.

  • Daniel Moraff

    “The authors’ names have been kept private due to their concerns about possible punishment from the University.”

    This is what Brown is like now, thanks to Christina Paxson.

    • rulesmatter

      do you not think President Simmons would have pursued disciplinary measures about a violation of the student code of conduct?

      I bet she would have. Especially in light of her defense of free speech.

      • maateroo

        No, she would not. She is as spineless as the rest at Brown.

    • Mr. Softee

      So transfer to some other place. No one is forcing you to stay at Brown — not even your imaginary police state.

      • NoJusticeNoPeace

        I’m sorry you have the privilege of enjoying a Brown experience free of fear and discrimination by police. Unfortunately, this is not the experience of all Brown students. I find your suggestion that students who are made to feel unsafe should transfer out of Brown deeply disturbing.

        • Mr. Softee

          If you think that Brown is a place filled with fear and discrimination then you haven’t seen much of the world; where there are places where at best you would be unsafe and at worst you would be dead — and you wouldn’t be able to have your cute little protest theatre with your cute little “Ray-cist” signs. As for Moraff, to whom my original response was aimed, I seriosuly doubt he lives in fear. However, he probably knew what he was getting into when he first applied to Brown. So if he’s really upset that Paxson is the president or that the Corporation is not a commune then he should have found a college that was more aligned with his collectivist world view.

        • Gayle Spencer

          Is the knock-out game practiced on your campus? If not, your fear is at best imagined.

        • ThomasD

          People made to feel unsafe by mere words have no business in a University environment, much less any business purporting to define the limits of academic speech.

          The people who orchestrated the shout down and penned this fundamentally dishonest diatribe are disingenuous bullies engaged in the worst sort of double speak.

        • Jack Klompus

          Yeah how do you survive in such a violent, tumultuous, threatening place like Brown University? The people of Central Africa Republic stand with you in solidarity with your gut-wrenching suffering. Will someone please rescue American Ivy League students from their pain and torment?!

    • C

      As much as I would be inclined to agree and point fingers, can we truly blame this all on President Paxson? #sparkdialogue

  • justice seeker

    Whether or not you had intended to prevent the lecture from happening once inside the auditorium does not matter. What matters is that you did, and you violated the student code of conduct.

  • Suzanne

    To the organizers,

    Know that there is a lot of support for you from both the graduate and the undergraduate community. I was dismayed to read President Paxson’s email in reference to possible disciplinary action, though I welcome her initiative to form a committee (and I hope that some of you will be allowed to serve on it). I appreciate your thorough statement, though am saddened that you are now in a position where you have to defend yourself.

    Finally, as an fyi, Prof. Loury in the Economics Dept also discussed this at length in his “The Glenn Show” http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/22955 and also argues for disciplining the students. So it’s not just Paxson.

  • Camila

    The student code of conduct is violated on a frequent basis by students who engage in hazing and sexual assault. I don’t understand why all of a sudden some people feel so strongly about this particular “violation”. These students were simply standing against a man and a system that keeps perpetuating institutionalized racism and discrimination. I don’t completely agree with shutting Kelly down, but I don’t understand why people think disciplinary action is needed or why would it be productive.

    • Student

      I think most people think that students who violate the code for sexual assault and hazing should also be punished, but they don’t usually do it in front of administrators.
      Civil disobedience is predicated on punishment. If these kids truly think the institution is so evil that they are compelled to stop its activities, they should want to demonstrate their displeasure by being charged.

      • RSS

        What they want is *not* for the “evil institution” to prove it’s evil by turning the proverbial firehoses on them. That would be perverse. They want for the institution to be better than that; that’s the whole point.

        Whether, as a protestor, you “welcome” being punished for a rule you consider illegitimate has everything to do with strategic goals. Punishment has seldom been welcomed by civil protestors who lack reasonable levels of family or collective economic support, or prominence in a community. In simple terms, these are 20-year-olds from all kinds of backgrounds–on financial aid, with half of a college education–not Martin Luther King walking into Birmingham Jail. Their situations shouldn’t hamper them from speaking, and it’s also not clear to me that punishment would further the impact of the campus-wide (and national) conversation they’ve already been instrumental in starting.

        So I disagree with the idea that they should welcome punishment, rather than continuing to advocate for reform.

      • Ragnar

        Um, “civil disobedience is predicated on punishment”?

        It’s these kind of statements that further trouble some students’ perspectives on this issue and beyond it.

    • Student B

      I think you are under the misconception that students who violate other aspects of the code of conduct are not punished. They most certainly are. The university does not take either hazing or sexual assault lightly.

    • They could be required to take a civics course, as others must receive diversity training..

  • Michael

    As a graduate student at this university, I stand firmly in solidarity with the students that wrote this article and had the courage to stand up for those disadvantaged by racist and inhumane public policy.

    • Jack Klompus

      Wow you’re so brave.

  • Kurt Ostrow

    Beautifully argued – so much respect and support for yall! And you have Melissa Harris-Perry on your side, so like . . .

    http://www.msnbc.com/melissa-harris-perry/watch/brown-univ-students-shout-down-nypd-commish-62729795576

  • Arafat

    “Our demonstration was an act of self-defense.”

    Seriously? The hyperbole and leaps of logic found throughout this article is childish.

  • Arafat

    “The event was designed as a lecture to give Kelly the primary voice in
    the room, guaranteeing that any alternative perspective would be placed
    in a position of lesser power and authority.”

    Gosh, isn’t this how any lecture works? What a surprise.

    • Student ’14

      …and therein lies the problem. Thank you for pointing it out.

  • Arafat

    “…the event threatened and silenced the very voices that could have
    opposed him and highlighted the human toll of racial profiling.”

    I admit I know very little about Kelly’s tenure or of his policies, but I do know that statistically blacks are far more likely to commit crimes. Can I write this or is it not PC-enough for Brown Univ to write the truth anymore?

    Israel uses profiling in their airline industry and more power to them. Statistics and every other scientific methodology proves that they should do so. But this is PC America where the truth is to be hidden behind closed doors so that we can all look like we are holier than thou.

    If Kelly’s policies simply acknowledged the real world (something I am assuming to be the case) then shame on you for protesting against reality. No doubt, though, you feel morally superior for doing so.

    • Arafat is trolling

      “but I do know that statistically blacks are far more likely to commit crimes”

      Actually, you’re wrong. Please do some research before making statements such as this one.

      Think about it. Law enforcement disproportionately targets Blacks (as well as other groups of color), therefore the numbers are going to show that more members of these groups commit crimes.

      And PC? You should also look up what this term means. What you said wasn’t about being politically correct, what you said was just incorrect. Again, do more research rather than listen to random misconceptions that you pick up on in conversation based off of stereotypes and ignorance.

      • Arafat

        Here we go again. So tell me how you know your assumption is correct and mine (Kelly’s) is not correct?
        I guarantee you for every study supporting your thesis (and it IS a thesis, not a fact) there are plenty that take the other side of your belief.
        Don’t dress up theories as facts, my friend. and then admonish me for not doing my homework.

  • Arafat

    “In the end, we decided only collective action would protect the rights of
    students and the larger Providence community and enable us to
    participate in discussions from a position of equal power and without
    fear.”

    Delusions of grandeur. College is a time to continue one’s maturation process. May I suggest you all have a lot of growing up left to do.

  • Arafat

    Beautiful. What you are really saying is you are the enlightened ones and mere “people” like me are not up to the task of deciding who has the right to speak, or not.

    The self-anointed ones: That’s rich. We’ll put all our faith in your leftist, magical thinking because, no doubt, your wisdom is infinite and we’re mere bigots with no real knowledge of the “VERY real” world where Kelly’s people risk their lives to do their jobs.

    Amazing logic.

  • Arafat

    Finally this reminds me of David Horowitz’s line: Inside every liberal is a totalitarian.

    Your actions support his thesis.

  • BrownS92

    The events you describe inside the room are not the whole truth. There were other students who tried to speak, and you didn’t like what they had to say so you told them to ‘shut up and sit down,’ yelling at them and humiliating them. No matter how I feel about shutting down Kelly, this behavior against your peers is unacceptable.
    See this link to see the majority of what happened in the room.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Qch6b7GaJM

    • LectureWatcher

      From what I know, the same student who was told to sit down had previously yelled at a demonstrator to shut up. I don’t think the escalation in that room can really be blamed on either side… There was a lot of stuff going on there..

      • Arafat

        LectureWatcher –

        Did you actually watch the video? Were you sober when you did?

        It’s as plain as day which side/which people acted like angry, childish despots.

  • Brown Alum 2013

    Thank you to the Providence community residents, Brown students, and Brown alums who shut Ray Kelly down. The Brown administration’s threats of disciplinary action are nothing more than a disgusting (though very transparent) attempt to deny Brown’s complicity, and shift the conversation away from the issues at hand: racial profiling and white supremacy, the police state, and the University’s very real role in propping up the status quo.

    • Mr. Softee

      Right, because we live in police state. The Stasi are running the show.

      • Jack Klompus

        It must be true, look how terrible America’s Ivy League students are suffering under the boot of oppression!

    • Arafat

      Brown Alum –

      You’ll get your way soon enough. Under Dinkins it was unsafe to walk in Central Park. Crime was rampant. Under Rudy and Bloomberg the crime rate plummeted.

      Now with the liberal Blasio elected You’ll be happy as the crime rates climb once again. Of course the victims of rape, murder and robbery might see it differently but who cares about them. Right?

      • BrownStudent16
        • BrownStudent16

          Specifically look at this.

          http://www.nyclu.org/node/1598

        • Arafat

          Mr. Soffee –

          We can all reference research reports supporting our opinions but that does NOT mean these research reports are accurate or unbiased.

          Just because you think the NYCLU organization is objective and scientific in their research does not mean they are.

          Part of growing up is realizing we are all human – all of us are drawn to skewed information that supports are existing biases. I’d suggest this is exactly what you are doing.

          But, of course, you probably believe you are a totally rational human being and that the NYCLU organization is a totally rational, unbiased entity.

          Hey, I believe in the tooth fairy too.

          • BrownStudent16

            Arafat-

            You clearly clicked on the link and skimmed if you even read anything at all. Because if you truly did read the information on that link, then you would have realized that the data the NYCLU is working with is data released from the NYPD themselves… Awkward…

          • Arafat

            Guilty as charged.

            Nevertheless there are lies, damn lies and statistics and if you truly believe NYCLU is objective just because they use data from the NYPD then I’m guessing you are belieiving in what you need to believe in, and that you do not have the stomach to accept the possibility that you (and they) are wrong and that they are manipulating the information to get the conclusion they want.

          • Enriquez

            May I ask, Arafat, what basis do you have for any of your arguments if you believe statistics are terrible lies in the liberal machine? Oh, you use emotion? Thats interesting… seems like a solid basis for your arguments.

            Also, not that you would care because this argument is based off of statistical facts, but your fear that liberal prosecution policies result in higher crime rates is entirely unfounded. Our crime sentencing has grown ever harsher over the last century and our incarceration rate is now at unsupportable levels… just saying.

    • Jack Klompus

      Cute little fascist you are.

  • Student Supporter ’14

    Thanks for trolling Arafat. Now we are the most commented article and I’m not even mad about it #sparkdialogue #notmad

  • Your Privilege, Seriously

    Has campus become so entitled to expect to fully act with impunity? Have students been on a long leash for too long?

    • Mak Wok

      It has. And an idiot like Margaret Klawunn will keep things that way.

  • Confused

    I am unsure how this article can claim that protesters did not intend for the event to be shut down, and that their protest got out of hand. If you watch the BPR movie, One of the protesters clearly says ‘now were shutting you down’ and Jenny Li, who I understand was a main organizer of the protests does not make any such claim that what happened was accidental, but rather that since the Taubman center didn’t cancel the lecture ‘we cancelled it for them’. That doesn’t sound like an accident.
    I dont agree with Kelly’s policies, but I believe fundamentally in free speech, even hateful speech. Most of all though, I dislike the apparent dishonesty of this article, attempting to reframe events in a way that they think would have been more appropriate. Some form of protest that is described above, with members of the community who have been hurt by racist police policies giving testament, would have been very effective.
    But the intention of this protest was to shutdown the speech, and that’s what happened Dont lie about it.

    • Connect the dots

      “When the executive director of DARE stood up to speak, he was approached by a woman who told him to be quiet. Emotions in the room intensified.”

      Now rewatched the BPR clip and then re-read that. I believe it’ll answer your question. And this time, actually read the article with an open-mind. It’s clear that you read it with no intention of learning anything.

  • “Ruth”-Less

    For those looking to wear their support on their sleeves (or shoulders):
    http://teespring.com/CPAX

  • chris8lee

    rationalization – (psychiatry) a defense mechanism by which your
    true motivation is concealed by explaining your actions and feelings in a
    way that is not threatening

    • chris8lee

      eg; it’s an agression and intrusion on the rights of my fellow students, a legitimately invited guest speaker and the officials who invited him, to cause a planned event to be cancelled..yet I justify this by insisting it is for the greater good of all involved..even though I know it to be wrong to behave in this way

  • Chris Timmy Raymond

    The system is rigged in such a way that Crimes committed by the poor are more fun to prosecute than going after people with the power to hire expensive lawyers. A hundred people processed and paying the city the fines for small crimes of stupidness adds up to big money. It pays much more than the risky act of arresting a banker and losing the case getting sued by powerful attorneys. Corporate money can do anything it damn well pleases. Just as war of aggression killing millions when plotted ,and committed by the rich and powerful

    • TheRationale

      Ha! Big people are big targets. If you get hit by an Aston Martin, your course of action is going to be oh so very different than if you get hit by a ’98 Civic. Ambulance chaser lawyers love doctors and hospitals. Why? Because money. Taxes go up as your income goes up. Why? Because you can get more money out of people who have more money.

      Take the drug war! Supposedly aimed at poor people – wouldn’t it be great if it wasn’t costing us through the nose and instead making us money?

    • Jack Klompus

      Chomsky Jr. speaks. A true voice of revolution.

  • Alum

    1 – The “unconstitutionality” of stop and frisk is up in the air. Scheindlin was deemed too biased to handle the case, so it’s at the appeals level. If the policy is ruled constitutional, I hope the same acceptance of the outcome of the legal process is given to the final verdict.

    2 – The victims of the westgate mall attack were unsafe. Victims of violent crime act in self defense. I don’t understand how preventing someone from articulating widely held, publicly known views at an optional lecture is self defense

    3 – Trying to get a lecture cancelled 4 days before the event with 300 signatures, including community members, out of 8000 undergrads+grads is big demand. Should less than 4% of the student body should be able to cancel an event for the rest?

    4 – Only 13% of Brown students agree with you creating the angry mob that prevented the lecture from going forward. 76% of white students, 55% of black students, 66% latino, and 77% asian disagreed according to the herald poll.

    5 – Half of NYers think Kelly is doing a good job. Quinnipiac polls show that the majority of NYers think stop and frisk is excessive, as you do. 68% white, 55%black, 67%hispanics, however, think keeping crime down is more important than reforming stop and frisk, even though they think it’s excessive. Perhaps harassment is the lesser of two evils?

    http://www.quinnipiac.edu/institutes-and-centers/polling-institute/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=1967

    6 – “taking responsibility” does not necessarily connote punishment, although I 100% agree that the code of conduct should also apply to protecting the rights of hazing/assault victims.

  • TheRationale

    “open-minded approach to education that it currently boasts”

    The hypocrisy is practically dripping off the letters.

    “almost all of whom were white male police officers”

    And you talk about racism? Replace white with any other ethnicity and there’d be an angry mob by now. Most people in the US are white. Get over it. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with white people, or groups thereof. And it’s “almost all!” What does that say? We can’t have a uniform ethnicity distribution? Are you mad that we may only have people of Italian and Irish descent in some areas, but not enough Hungarian and Polish? Are you mad that most groups of people in China are made up of mostly Chinese people?

    This is a pathetic need for self-victimization, to scream and shout and justify yourself as oppressed at every opportunity in order to make your point. Avoiding communication, refusing to accept the idea that other people may have thought of something you haven’t. That maybe you don’t know everything.

    “our core concerns about the lecture format and student safety were not met.”

    You have got to be kidding me. Safety? What on earth are you scared of? I know what you’re scared of. You’re not scared for your physical safety – no thinking person would be. You’re scared that someone may say something you disagree with. Scared that someone may challenge you to think instead of coast on the unfailing agreement of your peers. Scared to accept that there is another view out there that is not insignificant. Scared that you may be wrong. So you reduce yourself to thuggery – the very thing you’re protesting.

  • NoJusticeNoPeace

    “In Brown’s history, student voices have been critical in pushing the University to adopt the progressive and open-minded approach to education that it currently boasts. The establishment of the ethnic studies program, the Africana Studies Department, the Third World Center, the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, need-blind admission and even the implementation of the Open Curriculum were all results of battles won through student activism and organizing.” EVERYTHING THAT MAKES THIS PLACE SPECIAL WAS DEMANDED AND FOUGHT FOR BY STUDENTS. DO NOT TURN YOUR BACKS ON THE STUDENTS WHO ARE DEMANDING ACCOUNTABILITY BY BROWN.

    • Mr. Softee

      Hasta la revolucion para siempre! No Pasaran!

  • falfalla

    It is sad. But Chris Paxson has already failed in her job.

  • Another Thought

    Let’s me try to address your two substantive points here.

    Some initial points of clarification: I take it that when you say that you “stand by [your] actions and the anti-racist goals that motivated them” you mean that you stand by your actions that prevented Ray Kelly from speaking (among other actions that will not be debated here. Generally speaking, protest is fine as long as it does not involve silencing/harming someone). I also take it that you justify such actions by the “anti-racist goals that motivated them.” From reading your statement, I note two main reasons you vouched for your actions. The first reason is in regards to what I label ‘the right to feel safe’ (“ we feel genuinely unsafe around proponents and enactors of these policies”). The second is in regards to “questions about free exchange of ideas” (“We remain unconvinced that this lecture would have permitted a free exchange of ideas.”) I’ll address the reasons one-by-one:

    1. The right to feel safe.
    Your main worry concerns how Brown inviting Ray Kelly makes many Brown students “feel genuinely unsafe… feel threatened or intimidated.” You equate your action against this fear as “self-defense.” The keyword here is “feel”; yours is a rights-based claim against emotional harm. Additionally and more importantly, you argue through your actions that this “right to feel safe” takes prioritization over the right to speak of certain individuals.

    I have actually already addressed this point in my previous BDH comments so I’ll repeat my points here again with a few edits: “Interesting. Let’s take the implicit assumption on the prioritization of freedom from fear/persecution of certain groups over free speech of individuals in the other direction: Let’s supposed we’re still in the 60s and white students still have this irrational fear of black students as violent criminals. The few black students in the school want to start a talk on bringing more black students into the campus. The white students protest against the talk, arguing that the mere presence of more black students would put fear of violence in their hearts. There is that one white student, however, who think that the black students might have something to say. According to our initial assumption, the black students should be shut out from talking because the group of white students do not deserve to be persecuted by the black students’ speech (and that lone white student is just an individual who would be a “narcissist” for wanting to hear the other side).

    You can argue that the group white students are just wrong or as I said “irrational” in
    their fear here. But what makes them wrong? You (and certainty they) can’t answer that question without the existence of a global dialogue, without the ability to hear the other side, without free speech.

    You can also argue about the difference of each person’s stake in the global dialogue. I have no doubt that POC have a lot of stake in the Ray Kelly talk. You could also rationally argue, however, that the white students in my hypothetical situation also have a lot of stake (they think their lives are on the line!) in the black student talk.”

    As you can see, the problem with claims for rights to feel safe is that it also works the other way around.

    2. Questions about free exchange of idea.
    You argued that, because the event was designed as a lecture, it could not foster dialogue (“In providing Ray Kelly this undisputed speaking platform….It became clear to us that the event could not foster dialogue”). You also argued that this speaking platform of Ray Kelley “silenced the very voices that could have opposed him.”

    If your concern is truly about the free exchange of ideas, then you have a very mistaken idea of the word “dialogue.” The dialogue for the free exchange of ideas is not necessarily a literal dialogue or a debate between two people, it is the global dialogue in what Mill calls the “marketplace of ideas.” As you have mentioned, Ray Kelley’s event was billed as a lecture. A lecture is not usually designed as a place for the listeners to voice our their ideas (although there typically are, of course, spaces available to do that by the end or throughout a lecture. These spaces, however, should be viewed as secondary to the lecture itself). Rather, a lecture is designed as a place for the listeners to educate themselves. The Ray Kelley lecture was open to the public and there were attendees of the lecture who wanted to listen to Ray Kelley and educate themselves in such a way. This act of education for the attendees, unfortunately, is the very contribution to the global dialogue, the very essence of the free exchange of ideas, in which you have silenced: the free exchange of ideas of Ray Kelly educating those who purposefully came to the event to hear him (and I say “educating” because all viewpoints have value—even the bad
    ones to strengthen our own convictions).

    You could, of course, argue at this point that you were also educating such attendees by your shouts at the talk. The attendees of the event, however, were not there to listen to you. If you do not see why this is problematic, think of a town-hall meeting. Part of the responsibility of having free speech is also having speeches regulated in a relatively orderly manner.

    As per your point on Ray Kelley’s event silencing anti-racism, your protest itself has already shown how voices that opposed Ray Kelly and his policies are not being silenced. There is no ban against your protest or general opposition to Kelly’s viewpoint. No one shouted you down. No one prevented you from speaking.

  • Brown ’17 parent

    So every controversial speaker must be presented in a forum panel format to assure that opposing views have “equal power and authority”? Equal power and authority, all the time? This seems ridiculously silly and small-minded. If i were to decide that a lecture you’re giving is controversial, should I be invited to sit on a panel at every lecture or teach-in that you give? You “remain unconvinced” that there would have been a valuable exchange of ideas, but you never even gave it a chance! Do you have ANY experience where you were unfairly shut out of asking a challenging question at such a lecture? This is an unsurprisingly weak and lame attempt at rationalization of rude behavior. Grow up and engage. You will find that good ideas will carry the day, and bad ideas will go away, when the light of reasoned debate is shone upon them.

  • John Reynolds

    When 4% of the population (young black men aged 16-28) commit 54% of the murders in the country – how do you not profile?

  • It’s obvious that these people were NOT threatened by Kelly being on campus, and by this exercise show that they are the ones who threaten!

    The words here ring hollow.

  • DaMav

    These junior fascists give a whole new meaning to “Brown Shirts”. The University should be embarrassed.

  • londondave

    The whole purpose of this BULLYING action by a bunch of self-appointed censors and bullies, IS to threaten and scare anyone who dares oppose their totalitarian mindset.

    Fascists, communists, trots — you’re all the same. Statist totalitarians who’d see any opposision in the labor camps at the drop of a mad hatter.

    This “article” is a LIARS’ CHARTER — written by cowards in support of cowards.

    Scared? Safe place.

    What a load of unadulterated baloney.

    Oh, I’m sorry. Is that too “scary” for the middle-class vanguard of the proletariat?

    • Lazlo

      A bunch of Brown students are “scared” because someone is going to say something they don’t like and they shout him down. Pretty typical excuse for exercising fascism instead of providing alternative ideas in an alternative forum. Pretty typical fascist behavior by the students who decided to exercise their power to quash speech instead of listen to ideas. If the students who shouted Kelly down ran the NYPD they’d arrest all Republicans and put them in labor camps and gulags and think they were openminded because they’d all tell each other it was so.

  • McMuster Philip

    Bottom line: stupid handling and no anticipation by Paxson and Klawunn. Even now they are still trying to please everybody. They end up pleasing nobody, and at the same time they remain the spineless wimps that they have always been.