University News

Ray Kelly committee releases initial report

Paxson emails phase one report detailing context and facts behind the October incident

By
University News Editor
Dubin_PlanningCommittee_GregJD

Updated Feb. 20, 2014 at 2:18 a.m.

When administrators decided to shut down New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s lecture last semester, they did so partly because some feared that mounting student and community member protests could turn violent.

That detail is one of several revealed in yesterday’s release of the first report from the Committee on the Events of October 29, 2013, which President Christina Paxson tasked with a fact-finding mission upon its creation last semester.

The report, which was emailed to the community yesterday afternoon, describes the events leading up to and during the planned October lecture by Kelly hosted by the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions. The report concludes that administrators canceled the lecture due to concerns that Department of Public Safety officers would not be able to address conflict with protestors  unaffiliated with the Brown community.

In its first phase, the committee — headed by Professor of Africana Studies Anthony Bogues and comprising five faculty members, two administrators, two undergraduates and one graduate student — met with participants on all sides of the event, including students, faculty members and community members.

The committee also looked over documentation, correspondence and publicity surrounding the event.

Yesterday’s report marks the conclusion of the first half of the committee’s work. Having established the facts surrounding the incident, the committee will now turn to broader questions of inclusivity, community dialogues and freedom of speech, with recommendations set to be released by the end of the semester, Bogues told The Herald.

Though not on the original list of potential speakers for the annual Noah Krieger ’93 Memorial Lecture, Kelly was suggested by the Krieger family, who endowed the lecture fund, according to the report. His official invitation last May included potential topics for the lecture, such as how terrorism has affected policing in major cities after September 11th.

The report states that the event title and description provided by Kelly’s staff did not prompt “any reaction or discussion by Center staff before adoption.”

The Taubman Center was not aware of concerns about the event until leaders received an email from an alum about two weeks before the lecture, which denounced the decision to invite Kelly as the speaker because of  the controversial stop-and-frisk policies he implemented in New York, according to the report.

In the week leading up to the lecture, the Taubman Center was contacted by a student asking to meet and discuss concerns about the event. On Oct. 25, “students delivered (a) petition to the Taubman Center, along with the signatures of approximately 300 students, alumni and community members,” according to the report.

The report states that tensions between students and the administration were high at the time of the Kelly protest in part due to the Corporation’s decision the previous weekend not to divest the University’s endowment from major coal companies. This contentious atmosphere was critical to the context of the event, Bogues said.

“A lot of the students we interviewed mentioned it,” he said, adding that “there was a general feeling of not being listened to” by the administration.

The day before the lecture, administrators and Orr met to discuss reshaping the event to include a lecture simulcast in the next room and a discussion between students and Kelly after the lecture. They then met with a student, who brought a petition of about 500 signatures, to discuss a possible meeting with Kelly, which did not come to fruition.

Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Margaret Klawunn, currently acting dean of the College, “offered to sponsor and fund another event later in the academic year so that other perspectives on the controversial topic of stop-and-frisk could be heard,” according to the report.

During this meeting and before the lecture, the Student Code of Conduct policies on student protest were reviewed. It is standard procedure to read this policy before a potentially controversial event, said Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations.

University administrators also decided the day before the lecture not to remove event posters that had been defaced with swastikas, determining that “the symbols should be protected as a form of free speech and the flyers would not be taken down,” according to the report.

When informed by the Taubman Center of the controversy surrounding the lecture on campus, the report states, Kelly “expected some degree of controversy on college campuses, while the Krieger family was hopeful that the controversy would lead to fruitful discussion.”

The report also notes the uniformed police attendance at the event, which it says was perceived by protestors as “a visual symbol of the potentially threatening nature of Commissioner Kelly’s policies for Rhode Islanders of color.” The officers included Providence police, whose presence had been approved by the University, and DPS officers.

According to the report, administrators canceled the talk after 25 minutes because of disruption by student and community members.

“I want to make this clear that you’re cancelling this event. … I’m willing to speak,” Kelly said, according to the report.

In its next phase, the committee hopes to expand the scope of students and faculty members it interviews to include those who were not involved with the events, Bogues said. The goal is to determine how the community should move forward in addressing the University’s handling of issues of freedom of expression and to work toward defining community values, Bogues said.

“We want the University community to really help us out in the second part,” he said.

The second phase will also provide a chance for the University to examine its relationship with the city and state communities, he said.

While the committee will not issue recommendations about disciplinary action, its reports will provide context for proceedings in the Office of Student Life, which is currently reviewing questions of potential violations of the Student Code of Conduct by protestors using its normal procedures, Quinn said.

The committee does not have a release date for its second-phase recommendations or findings, but it will conclude its findings by the end of the semester, Bogues said.

Topics:
  • mxm123

    Ask yourself. Would the University have invited a speaker that would piss of a powerful community within Brown, its administration or board. The mumbo jumbo about free speech is just that. Only when they wish to invite someone who humiliates minority communities at Brown.

    • Hmm

      The only humiliation going on was the protesters humiliating themselves and the community. All Kelley had to do was remain calm and watch.

  • Alum

    The 500 signatures on the petition were done under false advertisement. This concern was raised and acknowledged by organizers of the protest both in online public and private message correspondence. Those passing the petition around on Facebook had the link along with a call only to voice opposition to the policy of stop and frisk. However, there was an effective bait and switch as the petition itself after a very long winded rationale for the petition listed three calls to action: (1) To have Brown University comdemn the practice of stop and frisk (2) Disinvite Ray Kelly as a speaker (3) Have the money for the honorarium instead be given to charity. As the Herald polls following the incident reflect, an overwhelming majority felt strongly against the policies yet wanted the event to happen.

    In response to the concerns surrounding the nature of the petitions I was guaranteed in writing by a leading organizer who was later quoted in the WSJ “this is a great day for democracy” that the event would take place as planned. Some guarantee.

  • Mu Leon

    The report is a piece of crap produced by otherwise capable people. It happens that way because of this dubious habit of forming committees. When Chris Paxson is clueless – and that happens most of the time – she forms committees. Just last week she formed a committee to do a report on a mule pissing in the snow on College Hill.

    • Did They Get What They Wanted?

      Care to back this statement up? Do you have any factual basis for your claims that Paxson is frequently clueless or that the report is a “piece of crap”?

      • Notda Busydean

        Ah…a debate by the committee type, and the wheel keeps spinning. Should I even try with such a numb nut?

  • Did They Get What They Wanted?

    I think it’s unfortunate that some protesters shut down the event. It’s discouraging that subsequently that action has been supported and defended by members of the community. The argument I see bandied about in justifying the protest and cancellation is essentially that “Ray Kelley’s a bad guy and his stop and frisk policies are bad, so it’s OK.”

    I think that those that support the lecture’s cancellation should evaluate the results of the lecture cancellation and determine if they really furthered their plight. From what I’ve gleaned from the article, it seems the protesters were acting out on an emotional basis without having all of the facts of the situation. And so, in trying to make a statement to the administration, the protesters made fools of themselves and the rest of the community.

    1) Those who protested inside the lecture hall did so in full knowledge of the Student Conduct Codes. (In a previous BDH article someone wrote that Paxson was “on a witch hunt” in reference to the possibility of students being reprimanded.)

    2) Given the close proximity in time to the Divest Coal campaign, it’s possible that the protesters bore some resentment towards the administration and were acting on that resentment.

    3) Someone in the administration offered to fund an event for a speaker with an opposing point of view to Ray Kelley’s lecture. (Illustrating that the administration was trying to be fair and attempting to work with the students who opposed the event.)

    4) Kelley was suggested by the Krieger family, who endow the lecture fund, and not initially by the administration. The intent of the lecture was to provoke discussion. (The lecture was not set up with the intent to indoctrinate students with Kelley’s views. It wasn’t the administration’s idea to have Kelley lecture, and Kelley was probably heavily considered out of respect to the Kriegers since they established the lecture series.)

    5) Despite 25 minutes of ruckus, Kelley maintained his composure and was still prepared to participate in the lecture. (In contrast, it seems the students were emotional and not composed.)

    • Notda Busydean

      Er sorry. Could you repeat what you just said?

  • Alumnus donor (for now)

    Universities are for the publication and expression of ideas and information. That is their raison d’etre. That is what faculty tenure protects. There can be no “contextualizing” of what happened at Brown. Unintimidated discourse should be the inviolate “context” — and that is an absolute. “Contextualizing” is what happens when the bullies win. The police chief of New York — whose perspective would have been, at the very least, informative — was shouted down by two dozen adolescents. Meanwhile, the intelligent part of the Brown community — the other nine thousand — was denied an opportunity to question him. The University’s existential character was, at that moment, erased. If part 2 of the report fails to expel or suspend the students who shamed Brown, my checks to the Annual Fund will cease. And THAT is the “context” in the alumni community.

  • TheRationale

    Paxson needs to grow a pair. These students should have been reprimanded immediately. The fact that she formed a committee that nearly 4 months later is only just done with part 1 (part 1!) of her “response” is a joke.

    • Alum

      Agreed

    • reguru

      While I generally agree the students should have been reprimanded, it wasn’t the students who were the main problem. It was the community activists who were present and really fomented disorder. They didn’t concern themselves with the concept of reasonable discourse at a University and they used the cover of a student protest to accomplish what they wanted.

      • Alum

        Really? Most if not all of the protestors filmed disrupting the lecture were Brown students. The petition that was passed around on facebook with a bait and switch was done by Brown students. The people facing repercussions and yet want to claim immunity for their “civil disobedience” are Brown students. When will Brown students accept consequences for their decisions and actions?

        • Alums need to GTFO

          What crimes were done that require “accepting consequences for decisions and actions”? You’re acting like the protestors assaulted Ray Kelly and attempted to hijack his helicopter. It was a couple dozen protestors who yelled, screamed, and then fell back when the administration merely mentioned the possibility of discipline. We haven’t heard from them since. When are you going to get over this?

          • Cold Hard Reality

            Reputation is everything. You want to attract the brightest minds to a University? You want job offers, let alone decent ones for students? You want to be respected? Great, then act accordingly.

            Unfortunately, the Brown reputation a student (and future alum) will be given is not up to each individual student. Those that are smart and work hard are going to be saddled by the burden of idiots making a mockery of what the school really stands for. It’s simply selfish to think hijacking the event and Brown’s name for one’s cause, as the protestors wanted and justified their actions, is acceptable. It hurts the many students that come to Brown for an elite education and opportunities to lift their own families into a higher standard of living.

            To make the whole affair even worse still, these protestors demonstrate they are indeed children when the possibility of repercussions become real. You cannot, by definition, practice any act of civil disobedience correctly or effectively without facing the consequences. The more apparently unjust the punishment the more effective a display of morality the civil disobedience. The fact that the protestors and sympathizers are trying to make it easy only shows how hollow and vacuous their belief in their cause is altogether.

            At the end of the day, we just had a bunch of brats besmirch Brown and hurt opportunities for the school and other students. That’s the issue.

  • Alum II

    Free speech is baaaaaaaaad.

    We much prefer groupthink here at Brown.

    I think, the young loudmouths will have to make do without my Annual Fund check as well. Someone needs to teach them, to listen more then they talk.

    • Tired of Grumpy Alums

      Holding your Annual Fund check hostage because of a couple dozen protestors, half of which weren’t even Brown students…wow, you must feel so proud. If there’s anything I hate the most about this entire debacle is how alums feel they have power and clout over administrative decision-making just because they send a lousy $100 check every few months. Please get over yourself. Just because a few dozen student protestors did something you don’t like, doesn’t mean you need to throw a hissy fit about your money. Put up or shut up.

      • Young Alum

        How do you think a lot of what you enjoy at school gets paid? Brown spends $90k per student annually and your tuition is $50k a year. Do the math.

    • ‘`*-.,_,-*’`*~-.,.~*’*~ (2014)

      please see the relevant poll results here: http://www.browndailyherald.com/2013/11/06/poll-shows-mixed-opinions-ray-kelly-coal-divestment

      most of us disapproved of the protesters’ actions. while the majority of students thought it was fine to circulate a petition to cancel the lecture and to protest outside, only a small, apparently very vocal minority (and i suspect there was a lot of peer pressure at play within the ‘social activist’ crowd) thought it was acceptable to shut down the lecture by protesting inside the auditorium.

  • tim

    hi i am an alumni with and ray kelly’s a dumb fascist who doesnt deserve as much as commitee and also i could use the money yall are not donating to the annual fund pretty efficiently hmu thx!

  • BuckEye Guy

    “University administrators also decided the day before the lecture not to remove event posters that had been defaced with swastikas, determining that “the symbols should be protected as a form of free speech and the flyers would not be taken down,” according to the report.”

    This quote needs to be remembered the next time some intoxicated frat boy scrawls a penis on a Women’s Center poster or some knucklehead puts a swastika on an LGBT flyer. I’ll betcha they get jacked-up on harassment charges in a flash, unlike the defacers of the Kelly posters who enjoyed “free speech.”