Columns

Miller: Two cheers for academic freedom at Brown

By
Guest Columnist
Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Brown is talking about Ray Kelly again, but let’s be honest. The conversation isn’t about Kelly. It’s about Brown and academic freedom. Those last two words refer to many things, but at Brown, they include the right of any group, faculty or student, to invite a speaker of its choice to campus.

That right was trampled on last year, when former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was shouted down by a small but determined group of students and community members. Unfortunately, some saw Kelly’s silencing as a victory. One of those was Jenny Li ’14, who proudly said the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions “didn’t respond to our demand to cancel the lecture, so today we canceled it for them.” In statements after the disruption, Li and her friends informed the University community that they would now determine who would and would not be allowed to speak at Brown, frivolous notions of academic freedom notwithstanding.

But Li’s elation at running Kelly off campus was not shared by others. One of them captured the dismay, I would suggest, of the vast majority of students when he told a reporter, “Personally, I applied to Brown thinking it was a forum for good discussion where everyone’s voices would be heard and where there wouldn’t be any silencing. But what I saw today is that a lot of people silenced Ray Kelly before he could even speak.”

Exactly right. President Christina Paxson declared it “a sad day for the Brown community,” and so it was. Protest, she noted, “has a long and proud history at Brown.” But this wasn’t protest. This was mob action designed to shut Kelly up and was a direct violation of Brown’s Code of Conduct, which states that “Halting a lecture, a debate or any public forum is an unacceptable form of protest.” Brown’s student body agreed. A poll published a week after the incident in The Herald showed that students disapproved of the actions of those who shut down the lecture by a margin of more than five to one.

Last week, Paxson responded to the reports of a committee charged to look into the Kelly affair. In a letter to the University community, Paxson offered a ringing endorsement of academic freedom and of the need for a campus open to even the most challenging and painful points of view. She cited the words of former President Ruth Simmons, who once took actions to ensure that Brown “permit a speaker whose every assertion was dangerous and deeply offensive to me (Simmons) on a personal level.” Why would Simmons have wanted Brown to provide a forum even for someone who “maintained that blacks were better off having been enslaved”? Because, as she so eloquently explained, to have canceled that lecture “would have been to choose personal comfort over a freedom whose value is so great to my own freedoms that hearing his unwelcome message could hardly be assessed as too great a cost.” Right again. One hearty cheer for Simmons’ and Paxson’s defense of academic freedom!

Next, Paxson rejected the committee’s suggestion that Brown needs a mechanism to inject opposing points of view when a speaker is regarded as controversial. She did not echo the committee’s inflammatory wording that “we” must “challenge expression with which we profoundly disagree and which may be harmful to members of our community.” Rather, she wrote, “The best response to controversial speech is more, and better, speech.” Bravo again! The committee’s insidious notion that speech can be equated with “harm” and therefore must be regulated was perhaps the most dangerous aspect of its report, and it was gratifying to see that Paxson did not accept it. One more hearty cheer for Brown’s president.

Why not three cheers? Because I worry about next time. The day after Kelly was shouted down, Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, told a Herald reporter that “the University does not plan to pursue disciplinary action against the students who disrupted the lecture,” despite the fact that their actions were a clear violation of University rules. Fine words in defense of academic freedom mean little if the University is not willing to back them up, and Klawunn made it clear there would be no consequences for those who “canceled” an invited lecture.

In apparent contradiction to Klawunn’s hapless response last year, Paxson’s most recent letter said the University will “sanction students found responsible for violations,” and that Brown “followed this process after the Kelly incident.” Really? If that is true, then what was the process, and why is it being hidden from the University community?

This was a public event, and those who appointed themselves as censors to shut down the lecture acted publicly beforehand and afterwards. Why, then, should the “sanctioning” of any students be carried out in secret? In one of Brown’s most famous protests, 13 students briefly interrupted a 1981 lecture by the then-director of the Central Intelligence Agency by standing to recite Lewis Carroll’s poem “Jabberwocky.” Brown then publicly found all 13 “guilty of infringement on the rights of others to participate in a University function.” That finding came exactly 22 days after the incident, making it clear that Brown would support free and open discourse on campus, and that disciplinary proceedings would swiftly follow any attempt to stifle or silence free speech.

Not so with the Kelly incident. Instead of a swift affirmation of academic freedom, we had the appointment of a committee, a full year of delay and now the announcement that an unspecified process took place behind closed doors. Will that serve to deter future disruptions when a determined group decides to “cancel” another lecture? I wonder.

The real issue is determining what kind of university we want. Those who silenced Kelly say they did so for the best of reasons ­— to ensure that voices of the oppressed and disadvantaged would be heard loud and clear against the tyranny of authority that Kelly represented. But the reality, as Simmons pointed out, is that their own freedom to bring those voices to the University is inextricably bound to the freedom of everyone else to do likewise. Once they have asserted a right to “cancel” the Taubman Center’s lecture, others may then assert a right to cancel the very voices they support so fervently. A truly open campus can exist only when we do not suppress the voices with which we disagree, however painful or disturbing we may find their messages.

Sadly, this is a lesson that has clearly been lost on those who silenced Kelly. But I hope that it has not been lost on the Brown community as a whole. In the years ahead, we’ll see.

 

Ken Miller ’70 P’02 is a professor of biology.

Topics:
  • Alum

    Professor Miller, don’t forget another student: Justice Gaines ’16 who was also proudly part of the shout down. http://www.browndailyherald.com/2013/10/31/hundreds-assemble-confront-kelly-controversy/

    His punishment? Placement on TWO Brown University committees. The Ray Kelly affair committee and the Student Advisory board part of the decision making process for the new *improvements* at the former TWC. Brown didn’t just sweep this under the rug; they’ve rewarded this intellectual thuggery (to quote Professors Loury and McWhorter during Loury’s videocast Oct 30th 2013).

    If this course of administrative endorsement along with the revised mission statement for the newly minted Brown Center for Students of Color (http://www.browndailyherald.com/2014/09/11/twc-creates-new-name-mission/) is any indication, Brown will see a brain drain. It will be slow, in plain sight, and unaddressed until the damage is catastrophic like a leaky faucet causing rot in the foundation. We’ll see a shift in the kinds of students that will and won’t apply. Then faculty leaving. Any kind of truth seeking person will see these signs and run the opposite direction, accelerating the drip.

    I had hope cooler heads would prevail but 11 months later and it’s still just hope, Professor Miller. I hope you can inspire other faculty to speak out or the drain by 1000 drops will commence. If then, I hope the reasonable among us stay afloat.

    • Disgusted

      I’m not even going to try and explain to you how calling a black man in protest of systems of oppression that cause him direct physical harm a “thug” is as racist as it gets.

      • Thomas F’ing Jefferson

        Disgusted because you’re not thinking. You won’t explain because you can’t.

        Put the race card back in the deck. It’s got nothing to do with race and everything to do with academic freedom. Educated people understand this and, heck, American writ large tends to understand this. It’s people who’d like to think of themselves as “intellectuals” who are somehow better than everyone else or special who struggle with this.

        Free speech is not contextualized. It’s not “free speech unless I disagree.” Professors have tenure for this reason. Universities exist to ask questions like this – the really hard ones. If Brown cannot be a place to ask questions, it’s failing as an institution of education.

        If you want some perspective, in 1977 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Nazi party allowing them to protest in Skokie Illinois. Brown protestors attempted to damage Kelly by painting him as a Nazi with swastika symbols. Not only was this uncalled for (New York is not Auschwitz, try as you might to think people are as ignorant as you), even if he had been a Nazi, the precedent for free speech would remain unchanged. In fact, Brown had a Nazi speaker come in 1966.

        If you want censorship, you’re in the wrong country, and definitely at the wrong institution.

        • Sick and Tired ’15

          This is such a misguided post. Wow.

          First and foremost, where is your proof that Brown protesters were the ones who branded Kelly signs with swastikas? That is an unfounded claim and a dangerous one, at that.

          Moreover, just because Brown had a Nazi speaker come in 1966, doesn’t mean it was right. If Brown brought a anti-Semitic Nazi speaker today, which I’m almost certain it wouldn’t, everyone would be up in arms. People would disrupt the speech and the speaker would go home without ever speaking. Because anti-semitic Nazis do not deserve our attention and do not stimulate valuable or intellectually engaging conversations. Rather, they spew hatred and intolerance.

          Nobody is comparing Ray Kelly to a Nazi. But I am saying that the speech Ray Kelly planned to give, one in which he used carefully worded rhetoric and one example to justify stop and frisk policies, is not one designed to stimulate valuable or intellectually engaging conversations. Rather, it is the defense of a mechanism that has disproportionately targeted people of color for years. It would not have stimulated meaningful discussion. It was an attempt for Kelly to defend his controversial legacy.

          I am tired of alums bringing up the 1960s and 1970s as if that is a good example. We learn about the 60s and 70s here at Brown to avoid the mistakes of that sordid time in American history–Watergate, Vietnam, Bull Connor, and the like. We don’t have to tolerate the hateful and distasteful rhetoric of time’s past if we don’t want to. Let us mold our university the way we choose.

          And again, I’ve said this elsewhere on this thread, but if you are a donor (or a professor here, or a faculty member) and you so strongly believe that a small band of protesters shutting down a now-ex police commissioner is so worth all of this outrage, please please please stop donating to this school. Leave this school. Remove Brown from your résumés. Stop coming to this university for alumni events.

          Few people, if anyone, will notice your absence from this campus. Because few people are foolish enough to think that this Ray Kelly incident warrants much more than a BDH article and a canned email from President Paxson.

      • Alum

        Disgusted, I invite you to watch the videocast published October 30th 2013 by professors Loury (of Brown) and McWhorter (of Columbia) of which “intellectual thuggery” is a direct quote. They are both black men, appalled by what happened, and highly esteemed academics in pertinent fields.

        I’m not even going to try and explain to you how a knee jerk reaction without knowing anything or checking the directly quoted sources is as ignorant as it gets.

        • Alum

          To make it easier, here’s a link to the video blog episode of The Glenn Show with Loury and McWhorter:
          http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/22955

          Apologies it was October the 31st, not the 30th.

        • Sick and Tired

          Wow. Great of you to cite two black professors to justify using the term “intellectual thuggery.”

          I’m confused as to whether we’re on the BDH website or FOX News. When will white people learn: citing a few random black voices does not justify your statements and certainly does not justify the use of racially charged words.

          “Thuggery” is directly associated with black males today and has been used in this country by politicians to invoke racial resentment. There’s no question.

          • o. ed

            How ethnocentric of you. Thug is a derived from the Hindi “thag” and is capitalized to refer to a member of an Indian crime organization.

            Would you also be the same person to censure the word middle english/scandinavian rooted word “niggardly” because it sounds racist?

            Education, because it’s not all about you.

    • another alum

      brain drain?

      the kinds of students that will and won’t apply?

      what does that even mean, because it sounds kinda like dog whistling to me.

      • Alum

        its plain english.

        An example of this happening at Brown (unrelated to this incident) is already visible in the economics department. We lost both of the only finance professors Ivo Welch and Ross Levine at the same time. They were replaced by econometricians, which entirely changes the makeup and ability of the department to teach certain materials.

        • another alum

          so? what does that have to do with anything? and why is it bad to have econometricians in an economics dept?

          • another alum

            how would brain drain even apply in this context

          • Alum

            In an academically intellectually reppressed environment, they will leave. More likely, it will be harder to find quality replacements for professors that leave or retire.

            I really don’t see how this is a difficult concept to grasp. Is there something that would help clarify this for you?

          • Alum

            Losing the variety in the faculty limits the kinds of courses that can be taught. The department was already staffed with econometricians, who can teach statistics applied to economics. With a decreased ability to handle areas of research and education you lose out on grad students, undergrads, money, professors in a vicious cycle. Currently the Econ department is seeing this. For example, walk into Robinson Hall and ask about finance, financial engineering, managerial economics, or even Austrian School economics. Hint: they can’t help you.

  • Alum ’09

    Ken Miller,

    I anxiously await your invitation of WBC to come speak on campus about the evils of homosexuality, the KKK on the inherent inferiorities of people of color, and the american nazi party on the how jews are a sore spot on this planet. Academic freedom, right? Or maybe you’d prefer to invite the creationist church or maybe an anti-vaccine group?

    This whole debate has NOTHING to do with academic freedom and everything to do with people believing Ray Kelly should have spoken. Can we call a spade a spade please?

    • Voltaire

      HA! You ignorant fool! Brown DID invite a Nazi to come speak. In 1966! (Comment above). Ken Miller would obviously stand for allowing people to come and speak.

      Yes, I’ll call a spade a spade. This has everything to do with academic freedom, and despite your degree, you’re not very educated.

    • Rick Bungiro

      Alum ’09, you did read Ken’s previous column, yes?
      http://www.browndailyherald.com/2013/10/31/miller-70-fascism-open-campus/

      Just to be clear, I find the practice of stop and frisk abhorrent, and actively challenge anyone I speak with who espouses the “if you aren’t doing anything illegal then it’s no big deal” viewpoint to imagine being put up against a wall and searched for no reason other than how they look. I also believe that civil disobedience can be an effective tool to raise awareness and promote change.

      What bothers me though, is that by disrupting the event in this way the protestors played right into the stereotype that the Fox Newsophiles have of this place. Ray Kelly came to our turf, but instead of challenging him with better speech and better ideas the protestors essentially used the “la la la not listening to you” technique. Was their anger righteous? Absolutely. But I would have preferred to see numerous students and community members of color have the opportunity to look him in the eye and call him out, to remind him of the human cost of “proactive policing” (or whatever they called it). Would it have changed his mind? Probably not. But we, as a community of scholars, would not have been dismissed so easily by those who view education, and the educated, as a threat.

      • Alum ’09

        I too disagree with the obstruction of the event once it had begun but I vehemently disagree that the event deserved or needed to happen in the name of academic freedom. Allowing Nazis to proselytize hate was disgusting then and it would be disgusting now.

        • Alum’09

          Let me chooses different word. Rather than “allow” I really mean “invite”. The university need not invite and pay any and every opinion.

          • another one?

            The University didn’t invite anyone, nor pay anyone. Read the report.

      • Alum ’09

        Sorry Professor Bungiro – I wrote my other replies to you on my phone. I had read that article but had not recalled it until you reminded me. It’s not entirely clear to me from Dr. Miller’s article, but Rockwell was not invited to speak on the evils of jews, gays, and minorities, right? He was not there to preach the effectiveness of concentration camps on achieving the final solution, correct? I have no problem with inviting people with colored pasts to speak on campus or even to say that controversial topics should not be discussed.

        Ray Kelly did not “come to our turf” Brown invited him and paid him. BIG BIG BIG difference. The event was not originally planned to allow people to call him out. The event was a podium for him to pontificate the idea that the best way to keep NYC safe is to violate the rights of minorities. It was only because of protests that a question and answer session was even added. As the NYPD Commissioner, Ray Kelly has plenty of avenues with which to spread his message. Brown need not pay him to provide another one. The scheduled event was at worst an active endorsement and at best a careless disregard for the rights of minorities.

        Academic freedom means that a class shouldn’t be canceled because it’s planning on studying something controversial or because a student wishes to pursue a research project on something controversial. Not inviting and paying Ray Kelly to speak is not a violation of academic freedom.

        • smh

          Did you even read the committee report? There was no honorarium. Come back when you’re credible.

  • Alum

    This article and the article you submitted to the BDH last year are a comfort to me as an alum who became very disenchanted with Brown’s resistance to open discourse by the end of my time on campus. Thank you for being a champion of free speech.

  • Grad Student

    How is singling out a specific student helpful in this process? A professor should know better.

    • press

      When you trample over other people’s rights (let’s remember that auditorium was overfilled with hundreds of other students!) and say dumb things in the WSJ, it should be known. There’s a difference in the headline “Brown Students Shoutdown NYPD Commissioner Kelly” and “A Handful of Idiots Censor a Talk, Call it Democracy”

  • alum 14

    here’s the real story: ken miller really likes to directly attack female undergraduates in public forums. just sayin.

    • Just sayin’

      Recounting the objective truth is an “attack” now?

      If it looks so bad to you its because what happen probably is that bad.

      • Acey S

        I’m sorry but have you even ever interacted with Miller at all? I have been in a committee with him where he took a particular and peculiar interest in destroying the female members of our groups and ended up his rant by saying that 1 in 2 or 3 women assaulted was an acceptable risk to our campus and he didn’t understand our outrage over the issue discussed.

        Academic freedom is all an well when it comes to Miller and company, but apparently female students should shut up on this campus.

        Which reminds, since so many of you seem alumni of that blessed 1970/ period, should we also go back to a time when women had to resort to writing the name of their assailants on bathroom doors to protect each other since neither the alumni nor the administration wanted to believe them?

        • Acey

          *which reminds me, since so many of you seem alumni of that blessed 1970s (when the biggest protests in Brown’s history happened, so I can only assume that alumni from that period posting here weren’t part of that since I doubt they would have the same perspective).

          And before you all try and defend Miller, if I had a recorder that day, we wouldn’t even have that conversation. He does it because he can get away with it and he knows it.

          Ah, the blessings of tenure.

  • Student ’15

    I just want to add my two cents to this discussion: I think Miller is mischaracterizing many of the protesters’ belief systems. Pretty much every protester I have spoken with has acknowledged the sanctity of free speech. They also felt that the power relationship in the room (someone at a podium with the right to ignore any question he doesn’t feel like addressing) negated any opportunity for free speech to occur, since it already privileged one opinion over another.

    Furthermore, on the note of “more and better” speech, it would be a hysterically arrogant opinion on the intelligence of Brunonians to think that we could sway a racist, power tripping commissioner with our speech any better than a decade of protesters against him could. I suppose the biggest question in that debate would be whether a speaker at Brown holds any greater context to the larger community or not.

    • Alum

      The right to ignore is not negating free speech! Free speech provides protections for people to say what they want. It does not compel others to have to respond. You do not have a right over other’s autonomy. That is the whole point of Lockian liberal (or “Negative”) rights! What you’ve conflated inaccurately is essentially an Inquistion.

      More interestingly, Brown alumni, Alexander Mieklejohn, political philosopher writes: “Conflicting views may be expressed, must be expressed, not because they
      are valid, but because they are relevant. If they are responsibly
      entertained by anyone, we, the voters, need to hear them…To be afraid
      of ideas, any idea, is to be unfit for self-government.” – Rulers and the Ruled.

      So working from the corrected premises here, if the talk had happened, free speech would be maintained because students would be allowed to ask their questions for 45 minutes (to a 30 minute talk) and Kelly would have presented his views. Knowing the collective slant of those questions from the student and faculty body, it could be argued that the power swayed in the Brown community’s favor.

      Moreover, Ray Kelly’s refusal to answer a question is in itself an answer. One that in today’s mobile social media can be politically potent. So the object is not limited to sway Kelly, but to expose truth, which in the presence of asking questions for 45 minutes is inevitable. This is the opportunity missed by the protestors for they unwittingly sidetracked their supposed entire cause from fighting Stop and Frisk to an unending lesson in what Free Speech is and how feeble arguments of power/privilege have no place in relation to Free Speech and this event.

  • an old Brown professor

    In my view, the student protest is also free speech. The University, correctly, did not intervene to force a retraction of invitation, also correctly not forcing the protesting students out. In this case, free speech principle did prevail. Paxson’s initial reaction was wrong to call it a “sad day for academic freedom”. It was a good day! It worked for both sides of the argument. Paxson knew she made a mistake. Her subsequent decision to use the committee as a walk-down is a graceful act. No action should be taken on the students. Prof. Miller’s attack on Ms. Li is shameful.

    • mieklejohn

      A protest is free speech. Silencing by coercive force is not. Anyone in a political science class could tell you this.

      Ms. Li’s, Mr. Gaines’, et al. attack on their peers is unconscionable and your defense of it is unbelievable.

    • Alum

      He “attacked” Ms. Li by objectively recounting her actions? Brown students can’t be responsible for their actions? How much shielding from the truth do the precious snowflakes on campus need?

      Is it only an “attack” because the truth looks so bad? If so, then we’d have to conclude that the censure by force is not ok.

  • Tom Gauss

    Christina Paxson sits the fence, is not doing her job, and should be fired. Margaret Klawunn wilfully neglected her duty, and must be fired.

  • Alum ’13

    Although I am not as well-versed in political science (and economics?) as the other commenters, I would like to share a particularly compelling argument in favor of the student protests that was circulating among the community of recent alums near the time of the incident:

    I agree that a preferable course of action might have been the “more and better” speech route suggested by Prof. Miller’s editorial (although I think many psychologists would point out that speech coming from members of an opposing social group will never been perceived as “better” and is therefore rather impotent, but that is beside the point). “More and better” speech certainly would have been less controversial, and perhaps made for a nobler headline. However, the students from oppressed demographics and their allies have no reason to believe that they will ever be given the opportunity to field their “more and better” speech. That has in fact constituted a large portion of their oppression: repeated denial of the right to voice their opinions. Why should they believe that if they sit quietly and wait their turn, this right–historically denied over and over again–will finally be awarded to them? In this light, it is unsurprising that so many students chose a different, and yes more disruptive, route.

    The issues leaves me very conflicted. I want my alma mater to preserve its reputation of academic freedom, but I also completely sympathize with and support the students whose desperate situations have led them quite logically to desperate measures. But I am certainly glad that no disciplinary action was taken. The University should instead be focusing on creating a genuinely welcoming environment, not just for white males in positions of power to (be paid to) speak, but one in which minority students and their allies can truly trust that their right to do so will also be honored. Only when the students feel that they indeed have the option to express themselves in ways that are more palatable to the University will they choose to do so.

    • Recent Alum

      A 45 minute Q&A for a 30 minute talk was a good faith gesture, providing an ample option to express themselves directly. There’s also protest and writing to the widely distributed campus publication. I have a hard time believing it’s a question of expression so much as a question of being agreed with that is the issue for these students.

      I can see the lack of any coordination or interest from UCS to address the administration leading up to the event as a cause for concern. However, this Ray Kelly protest wasn’t organized/publicized until the week of so getting UCS to address the administration is logistically impossible. As the saying goes, lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine…Nevertheless UCS is a whole other issue and directly plays into student representation.

  • alum

    A very important article. I have communicated with a number of members of the administration to try to determine whether there had been a finding that the Code of Conduct had been violated. I was told, most recently by Marisa Quinn, a Vice President, that the information is “kept confidential, consistent with the University’s long-standing rules “. I didn’t seek names or punishments. My inquiry could have been answered with yes or no. Clearly, a basic fact is being hidden here. This is very disappointing as I expected more from the President, whose recent report makes it obvious that the code was violated. Yet the fact of a violation finding cannot be stated in the open. Brown students are intelligent enough to see that the code of conduct is a Public Relations activity, not something that needs to guide their conduct.

  • also

    Everyone knows that the bulk of Brown faculty and administrators have been, at least since the 70’s, willing to trade serious academic accountability and achievement for lofty notions of “academic freedom” and affirmative action. Gosh, even in my time there, I got challenged by a professor for arguing a different point of view on “psycho-history”. I didn’t get challenged on my arguments, but rather on the notion of having the temerity to issue a challenge, period. Not good.

    Let’s be honest, the notoriety Brown has achieved in the last 3-4 decades came from celebrity… as in, when in the 70’s we started bringing down the Kennedy’s and other pushers from Boston. Tell me the great companies and inventions and innovations spawned by Brown since then…

  • Sick and Tired

    I am absolutely floored at the disgusting rhetoric that has perpetuated against people who were exercising their freedom of speech last year. It is alums like you, Professor Miller, and the racially charged commenters on this post who have turned back the clock to the 1950s. To suggest that the students involved in the protest have been let off the hook, when alums like Professor Miller derided them and called for their punishment (effectively ending any organizing movement out of fear of punishment by the university), is a ridiculous notion.

    It further emphasizes how this University has prioritized its own interests over that of its students. The voice of students of color here at Brown have been silenced at the hands of alums like Ken Miller, who advocate for “freedom of speech” as if it is a limitless right. It is not. ” Speech that advocates for and defends a policy that has clearly had a racially disparate impact is not free speech.

    White males like Ken Miller, and the barrage of alums on this thread (who have laughably cited perhaps the only two black scholars who side with them to avoid being called racist–one of which, Glenn Loury, was once a darling of white, southern conservatism), are simply blind to the issues of race that are at play here. Race is at the forefront of this discussion, and for you, Professor Miller, to ignore it is reflective of your inability to see beyond your own experiences and understand how this country has repeatedly sanctioned and silenced the voices of students of color.

    If the Ray Kelly protests have done anything, it has further emphasized that, even in the liberal bubble of the Ivy League, the word “racism” has been further retrenched into the back channels of history.

    Shame on you Professor Miller (and the other alums) for further disgracing Brown with your diatribes against a very small group of protesters who, sure could have taken out their anger in other more productive ways, but did what they thought at the time was best. Instead of being a teacher and suggesting that these students learn from their experience, you continue to lead the lynch mob against them, calling for them to be sanctioned.

    Students of color here will not be silenced, not even by the white alums who threaten to hold their checks. Hold your checks because a few students of color protested Ray Kelly! Stop supporting Brown because you think protesters should be sanctioned! And at the same time, scrub “Brown University” from your résumés and stop coming back for alumni events. And Professor Miller, please leave this university and go elsewhere if you truly feel that a few dozen protesters really stifled speech on this campus. This Brown student of color here won’t miss your ugly, racially charged rhetoric. Good riddance.

    • Alum

      Fear of punishment by the university? Provide me with an example of punishment that would put fear in anyone. The Code is a joke. A PR gimmick that exists at Brown only because every organization must have one. The unserious use of it begs people to ignore it. Yet the President has the nerve to pen a report that attempts to show how important it is. Embarrassing!

  • Ken Miller

    “Sick and Tired” pulls out that old, tired argument that it’s all about race, and that white guys like me just don’t get it. Nonsense. It’s about whether Brown will be an open campus where no one is silenced. If you had actually paid attention to what happened on campus last year you would have noticed that students of color weren’t silenced at all. Rather, there was a teach in a few days later in which nearly all of the voices were those of the very people you seem to believe are not heard at Brown. Those students were not silenced, nor should they ever be.

    There were indeed protestors at Kelly’s lecture. They were picketing and demonstrating, and were prepared to ask questions of Kelly that would have exposed the effects of his policing policies on people of color in New York City and elsewhere. But those protestors never got a chance to challenge Kelly. The people who shouted Kelly down were not “protestors,” because they weren’t involved in protest. Their goal was to prevent him from speaking, not to answer and confront him. So, in their own terms, they “cancelled” the lecture. They shut Kelly up and ran him off campus. That’s the problem.

    You also write that I called for “punishment” of the self-appointed censors who decided that Kelly should not speak at Brown. Not true. What I asked was that a clear and obvious violation of the Code of Conduct should result in those students being called to answer for their actions. Whether they should be “punished” or not is not a matter for me (or you) to decide. It’s for the disciplinary process to determine. In the case of the “Jabberwocky” protestors, that process found them guilty, but did not assign any punishment whatsoever. I don’t know if that’s what happened in this case because our Administration has decided that the very existence of the process should be concealed from the University community. Puzzling.

    So, go ahead and blame it all on race. Pretend, if you will, that there are “lynch mobs” on campus, using the most racially charged language you can in an effort to dodge the genuine issues of this case. And finally, go ahead and argue that there are “only two black scholars” who argue that the campus should be open to views you find offensive. There are, of course, quite a few more who see things as I do, including one notable scholar named Ruth Simmons.

    What you fail to see is that efforts to preserve the rights of the Taubmann Center to invite a controversial figure to campus go hand in hand with efforts to make sure that the voices of students of color are never silenced either. I advocate a Brown campus in which controversial, even challenging, issues are part of everyday discourse, argument, and discussion. You advocate an intellectually timid campus in which we are afraid of people like Kelly, and have to silence them with mob action. I want no part of the school you describe, nor do most of the students or faculty at Brown.

    • Sean Ling

      You need to chill out, Ken. I respect your freedom to express your views, but to demand the administration to punish these GOOD kids for some protest is ridiculous. The code of conduct is designed to prevent the real bad guys from doing damage to the University, not for the purpose policing freedom of expression! These protesting students, including Ms. Li, are good kids! They care about serious issues! We should encourage them! I’m proud to have these kids as my students. They can shout as much as they wish, as long as they don’t throw rocks or shoes at a speaker, I’m fine with it. Not able to run a lecture in the presence of protest is a question of the ability of the people playing the host. I disagree with President Paxson’s “sad day” characterization, but agree with her decision to let it pass and learn how to run such lectures in the future.

      • heya

        Sean, Good kids don’t silence debate or cancel voices. Its that simple. Please face the fact that Brown (yes Brown!) Includes people who are not “good” when it comes to sexual assault, and people who are not “good” when it comes to silencing diversity of opinion in the public square. Value judgments such as this must be made. Otherwise we could call everything “good”, including sexual assault and silencing of unpopular viewpoints.

        • Sean Ling

          heya, I completely disagree. There is no equivalence between sexual assault, which is a crime, and shouting in a talk, a loud expression of views, which is protected by the US constitution. To be totally honest, I was shocked by President Paxson’s “sad day” characterization. I treated her initial statement as a personal expression of view, not official position of the University. These kids are not in the position of power, they can’t shut down anything. I understand Ms. Li said something like “we’ll shut it down for you”. But she is a kid! I’m sure she will laugh at her own statement later when she is older.