University News

Year later, Kelly still fuels campus debates

Community clashes persist on interpretation of events, how to move forward

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, October 31, 2014

The effects of the events of Oct. 29, 2013 still loom large one year later. The invitation of Ray Kelly to speak on campus and the subsequent protests ushered in a continuing dialogue on racial dynamics at the University.

The shutdown of former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s guest lecture by student and community member protesters cemented the events of Oct. 29, 2013 in Brown’s collective memory.

The discourse that followed shook the foundation of the campus, pushing many to reassess and verbally spar over what should define Brown’s character as a university.

One year later, questions about how to remember the Kelly controversy, how it has changed conversation on campus and how the University will adapt in light of the issues it raised continue to divide the Brown community.

 

Setting the tone

What happened in List 120 that day is a well-documented part of the public record: Various messages shouted toward the stage, followed by a collective statement from the protesters, persisted long enough that the University declared the event over. Kelly had not said more than a couple of sentences.

“The protest itself was a huge mix of emotions. It was angering; it was empowering; it was traumatizing; it was necessary,” recalled Justice Gaines ’16, one of the protesters.

“It was frustrating,” said Valerie Langberg ’14 GS, who attended the lecture. When the protesters yelled, “‘Who in the room would like to hear Ray Kelly speak?’” many people raised their hands, Langberg recalled.

Later that evening, President Christina Paxson sent a letter to the Brown community condemning the protesters’ interruption of the lecture. “Protest is welcome, but protest that infringes on the rights of others is simply unacceptable,” she wrote.

At the time, many others conveyed views similar to Paxson’s. A Herald poll the next week found that 73.2 percent of undergraduates disapproved of the protests inside the auditorium that caused the lecture to be shut down.

The Kelly lecture “was one of my worst experiences at Brown,” said Brandon Taub ’15, who attended the event. “Protesting is a good thing. … But it’s not within their right to force an event to be canceled because they don’t agree with it.”

Others see Paxson’s first response differently.

“It made a hostile environment for students who participated in the protest,” said Dakotah Rice ’16, who initially rejected the lecture’s shutdown. Rice later became a member of the Committee on the Events of October 29, the group tasked with assessing the incident and offering recommendations for the future.

For Gaines, the rest of the day after the protest was “a hell-hole.” On social media, he said, many people who interpreted the incident through the framing of Paxson’s email had a “complete misunderstanding of the reasons, the purpose or exactly what happened.”

 

Competing narratives create discord

Paxson’s email prompted an ongoing debate about what message to take away from the Ray Kelly affair.

While many acknowledge that issues of race, power and privilege played a role in the protest and remain important topics for discussion, the protesters and their allies assert that these issues must be the focus of dialogue about the controversy.

Others maintain that the lecture’s shutdown could set a dangerous precedent for the way freedom of expression is treated on campus and insist that the University remain vigilant in protecting the right of any person to voice any opinion at Brown.

“Since Oct. 29, I’m a big supporter of freedom of expression on (the) university campus,” Paxson told The Herald. Though she said she is pleased with the discourse on race that has followed the Kelly affair, she still “hope(s) we can get to the point where anyone who’s invited to campus will be allowed to express their ideas as well as be challenged.”

“The real question about the silencing of Kelly is this: Is this going to be a campus in which all groups — student groups, faculty groups and administrative groups — can exercise the right to invite speakers and visitors of their choice, or not?” said Ken Miller ’70 P’02, professor of biology, whose opinions columns in The Herald over the past year have made him a prominent voice against the shutdown.

But some see freedom of speech differently in the context of the protest.

“Shutting people like Ray Kelly down is not necessarily an attack on their freedom of speech, because they already are given the space and the military power to put their ideas into action,” said Eduarda Araujo ’15, one of the protesters.

And the protest aimed to amplify the often-unheard voices of those affected by policies like the stop-and-frisk policing measures pursued by Kelly when he headed the NYPD, several protesters said.

Protesters are also frustrated that a discussion on the importance of freedom of expression must accompany or overtake the discussion on why they protested in the first place, they said.

But some assert that it was the protesters who shifted the focus of dialogue from race-related issues to freedom of expression.

“The way (the protesters) handled (Ray Kelly) coming to campus turned it into a conversation on freedom of speech,” Langberg said.

The protesters are not a homogeneous group. To this day, the protesters and others who believe the University made mistakes in bringing Kelly to Brown still maintain differing opinions on what exactly those mistakes were and whether Kelly should have been invited at all.

The University “brings an officer who was involved in developing a racial profiling policy in New York City and invites a bunch of police officers in Providence. It’s like offering them a workshop on how (they) can justify (their) racist policies,” Araujo said. “That really hurts the city.”

Araujo and other protesters emphasized that the protest was an act of solidarity with Providence residents. She said she supports shutting down events in the future that students view as “harmful to them, to Providence or to the world.”

But for other protesters, shutting down the lecture may not have been the goal of the protest and does not figure into their conception of how activists should handle talks by controversial figures in the future.

Some say the Kelly lecture might have gone on if not for the laudatory way his talk was framed — the title was “Proactive Policing in America’s Biggest City” — and the police officers invited to sit in the first couple rows.

“Disagreeing with ideas wasn’t the point of the protest,” Gaines said. “Ray Kelly was a different story, … because the policies he’s created and the way they were framed disrespected people.”

Paxson said she acknowledges that the University or the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions, which organized the lecture, “should have pushed back on the title of the talk and the way it was portrayed.”

“We invite someone here — that’s not an endorsement,” she added. “It never is.”

 

Discipline

The disciplinary process for student protesters who interrupted the lecture has also generated contention and confusion.

On Nov. 6, 2013, Paxson sent an email to the Brown community indicating that the University would decide whether to refer students to the disciplinary process after receiving the first report from the Committee on the Events of October 29 — a shift from administrators’ prior comments.

Paxson sent the committee’s first report to the community Feb. 18, but the entire community did not get word that hearings had been conducted until she sent her response to the committee’s second report this month. The University declined to disclose which students were disciplined and what their punishments were, citing restrictions under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Miller criticized the timing of the University’s decision to refer students to the disciplinary process. Had the University made the decision sooner, “people would have been aware of the fact that the University enforces its rules,” Miller said.

The disciplinary process occurred a few months after the incident and lasted no longer than three days, Gaines said, adding that students were penalized for standing up during the lecture and interrupting Kelly.

Gaines criticized the punishment as one-sided, noting that students who spoke up in the lecture hall to defend Kelly or his right to speak were not punished.

 

Racial fissures surface

One universally recognized element of the Kelly affair’s impact on campus is the widespread discourse it generated on race — at least in the immediate aftermath.

“What we had done was lay bare the divides that already existed on campus and make it possible for honest transformations to occur,” said Irene Rojas-Carroll ’15, a protester.

In the wake of the event, Duane Barksdale ’17, like many others, at first disapproved of halting the lecture despite personally opposing stop-and-frisk. At the time, he worried anyone outside of Brown would get the impression that “we’re a bunch of liberal students who don’t want to hear people’s opinions,” he recalled.

“Over the course of the past year, I’ve grown to understand both sides of the issue,” he said. “The actual act of him being shouted down started to make more sense to me for people who have been directly affected by stop-and-frisk.”

“It was very important for the campus community as a whole — for those of us who weren’t engaged with this issue — to learn how to be advocates for the protesters rather than be skeptics, which is what I was at first,” said Elena Saltzman ’16.

Despite this, many of the 72.3 percent of students who opposed the halting of the lecture last Nov. 4 still feel that way.

Taub said the incident represents a greater and more problematic phenomenon: “Some views are acceptable on campus while others aren’t, which stands against everything Brown stands for in terms of dialogue and freedom of expression.”

For some protesters, discourse on race proved productive but difficult after the Kelly affair.

“I think it was valuable to have this discourse emerge on campus and to have — for quite a long time — this being discussed,” Araujo said. “At the same time, it brought to the surface a lot of our community’s blind spots — ignorance — regarding race, regarding its role in Providence, its relationship to its own students of color and this very ignorance evidences the fact that we hadn’t been discussing race almost at all.”

“It was striking to see … how many of my classmates — when actually pushed to say something one way or the other — defended structural racism and repression, and/or evaded the issue by making it solely about academic freedom and abstracting away from what the demonstration was really about,” Rojas-Carroll said.

But some students doubt how widespread or enduring the discourse sparked by the Ray Kelly affair has actually been.

“I haven’t noticed people talking about race that much more,” said Sarah Jackson ’16. “Some people just never talk about it. It depends on the group of people. This campus is very self-segregated.”

“I think it was definitely temporary. Personally, I didn’t hear that much about (race) … because the freedom of speech (discussion) was so much more prevalent and in your face,” Langberg said.

 

Existing inequalities at Brown and beyond

Pursuant to the many discussions community members have had about race since the Kelly affair, the second report compiled by the Committee on the Events of October 29 offered suggestions on how the University can address several related issues, such as faculty diversity and strengthening ties with the Providence community.

Only 4.9 percent of full professors identify as underrepresented minorities in the current academic year, according to data obtained from the Office of Institutional Research. Underrepresented minorities account for 13.4 percent of associate professors and 12.4 percent of assistant professors.

That small proportion can be detrimental to the experience of students of color, said Armani Madison ’16.

A lack of senior administrators of color also poses a problem, Rice said, adding that a diverse administration would more easily facilitate “dynamic reactions” to certain topics.

After some called for diversity to be considered during the search processes for a new provost and dean of the College last year, the University ultimately selected white candidates for both positions.

Diversity was “absolutely” a consideration for both searches, Paxson said. “One of the most important things is to make sure every department, every administrative unit, is thinking about building a strong, diverse pool for every single search they do,” she added.

Regarding members of the wider community — who played a large role in last October’s protest — Paxson wrote in an email to The Herald that in the future “it makes sense to close the event to the public” if “there is good reason to believe that members of the community are planning to disrupt an event.”

“Although I strongly prefer keeping events open to the public,” Paxson added, “Brown is a private university with the right to make events ‘Brown-only.’”

But some protesters criticized the notion that events like the Kelly lecture might be closed to the public in the future.

“That decision highlights the University’s elitism and bitter divide with Providence rather than a real willingness to support, work with and learn with communities on the ground,” Rojas-Carroll wrote in a follow-up email to The Herald. “It’s incredibly insulting, regressive and, frankly, racist.”

 

U. Hall and students of color

As the disagreement over closing events to the public shows, many of last year’s protesters still harbor a great deal of doubt as to whether the University looks out for the interests they champion.

“I don’t think that the administration has the diversity makeup to be able to adequately tackle these issues,” Madison said, adding that “improving the relationship between students of color and the administration” is “a discussion that we need to have.”

“Universities like Brown, historically, have not had students of color’s backs, nor did they want to,” Araujo said. “Our university only adopted a discourse of diversity … when students actually walked out, occupied buildings, raised hell, basically. So the University is not going to have our backs unless we oblige it to.”

But this perspective on the administration may not represent that of many students of color on campus. A Herald poll conducted last week found that nearly one-third of black students approve of Paxson’s job performance, slightly higher than the percentage who disapprove.

“As an individual student of color, I feel supported more or less,” Jackson said. But, she added, “I’m not sure because I’ve never had to do anything super controversial.”

For some, mistrust of the University as an institution extends to doubt about whether it will follow through with the promises, such as increasing faculty diversity, that Paxson made in her response to the committee’s second report.

Paxson declined the committee’s recommendation to establish an ad hoc committee in charge of oversight for any planned improvements, deciding to rely instead on standing committees such as the Committee on Faculty Equity and Diversity. Paxson is currently in talks with the Faculty Executive Committee on how to improve the CFED so it can serve as the primary watchdog on improvements to faculty diversity in coming years, she said.

In acting on the committee’s recommendations, the University will play a role in molding the next chapter of the Kelly affair’s legacy. But the past year’s chain of actions and reactions indicates that no one stakeholder will shape the rest of the story alone.

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  • SD

    I wonder how long it will take for Ken Miller to whip up another racist op-ed or comment.

    • Brown Alum

      Nice, SD. Your first, leftist instinct is to play the race card rather than provide a substantive response to Prof. Miller’s dispassionate comments. The race card is the first and last refuge of the empty mind. There is nothing in Prof. Miller’s comment that in any way betrays racism, and I defy you to demonstrate to the contrary. Your comment is disgraceful.

      • Sean Ling

        Regarding Prof. Miller’s op-ed piece, I’m not sure whether it was misogynist or racist, or both. Among all those protestors, he singled out Miss Li in his piece. His criticism on President Paxson’s decision on not to apply the “code of conduct” in this case also appears to be misogynistic. I think Brown made the right decision in appointing Paxson, bypassing Schlissel.

        • Seriously?

          Criticizing Jenny Li for what she did at the protest does not equal misogyny or racism. I’m baffled that a Brown Professor could ever argue that. And Professor Miller didn’t single her out, she singled herself out. She was by far the most vocal defender of the protests. Everyone on campus knew who she was. She was interviewed by major media outlets and became the proud figurehead of the movement. Is she a racist and misogynist for singling herself out? Let’s at least be consistent…

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2y8Sx4B2Sk

          • Sean Ling

            From wikipedia:

            Misogyny (/mɪˈsɒdʒɪni/) is … denigration of women …

          • Seriously?

            Yes… Denigration *because* they are a woman. I’m amazed I have to explain the meaning of fairly simple concepts to an Ivy League physics professor.

          • Sean Ling

            Okay, I get it, Seriously, you want me to give you a physics-approach analysis of what happened here in the Kelly case, and why I think Prof. Miller’s op-ed piece was racist and misogynist, and you are no different from KKK. (In case you are wondering, the approach I will apply is called “renormalization group” (RG) approach. The RG analysis allows us to look beyond the bells and whistles of things.)

            In my analysis, there are only two fixed points of reference, racist or not. Namely, you are either with KKK or with MLK. Everything in between can be rescaled back to that two points. (Just in case you want to know where I stand politically, if it were up to me, KKK and Nazis will be outlawed. They are groups incite violence against humanity, so they should not have a place in the civilized society.)

            Let’s first look at Kelly’s Stop and Frisk policy. I understand the “for” and “against” reasons: for the “for”, it works in reducing crimes in NYC, the ends justify the means; for the “against”, it is used overwhelmingly against young black males, causing unjust psychological and emotional stress on a class of people already under economical stress, it effectively condemns the black population to the perpetual loop of poverty-crime-poverty, thus it is a racist policy. Thus it is clear to me that Kelly stood for white power in the country.

            For whatever argument, Kelly was invited to speak at Brown. Yes, the principle of academic freedom will protect the professor who issued the invitation. Paxson was right in not forcing a retraction. Then, the protestors outsmarted the VP who was running the show. She panicked and acted like an embarrassed parent for the naughty behavior of her children, SHE cancelled the talk and apologized. If I were the president, I would have said that I regret for the inconvenience and that would be the end of conversation. Paxson got a committee to say effectively the same thing. That’s all fine for me.

            I was quietly watching the whole episode developing and was relieved to see that the President acted wisely in her final decision on this issue. But she left the door open when she said we will revisit the policy on “Code of Conduct”. Then came Prof. Miller’s op-ed piece on “Two Cheers for Academic Freedom”. Academic freedom was never at stake when the president’s office refused to force a retraction. When Kelly showed up on campus, Brown’s commitment to academic freedom was fulfilled. Paxson’s job was done. The rest was for the people run the show with the police. After the show was ruined for the host and the speaker and for those who relish the opportunity to converse with their hero (Kelly), Brown University has nothing to apologize for. So I was quite offended by President’s letter apologizing on behalf of me!

            My fear was that it was people like Prof. Miller who have pushed the new president to re-write the policy on “code of conduct” in such a way that will fundamentally limit the freedom of expression. Here is what I will say to President Paxson: if you have to change the “code of conduct” to run this University, then you proved Mark Schlissel’s characterization of your lack of experience (see BDH interview with Schlissel when Paxson first arrived). Please don’t do it. I trust that you will find the intellectual strength to lead this university.

            Back to Miller’s piece, he attacked publicly a female undergraduate student. It was bad taste, and poor judgement as a professor. They are kids, we are grown ups. The unspoken rule on any campus should be that the professors will never attack a student. If a student committed an illegal act, let the law and police handle it. Here the students only exercised their free speech right. I’m sure Prof. Miller wants to deny my point here: I think he singled out Jenny Li because she is Asian and female, she cannot and will not fight back. To attack someone or a group thinking you can get away with it is the mentality of KKK and Nazi.

            To conclude my analysis, the Kelly case forced us to pick sides, I pick the sides of the protesting students, thus the side of MLK. Which side do you pick?

          • Alum

            Prof Ling you are quite a piece of work. If you believe the world is divided into MLK vs KKK with no other views, then you are even more of a simpleton than the average first year student. You accuse Prof Miller of being racist, and yet that comes directly from the “whiteness” of the biology faculty. Therefore it is you who is judging by race. That is what the KKK does. And therefore, baed in your model, not what MLK would have done.

            Therefore, by your own model, you are KKK. Or now is perhaps that model too simplistic?

            I had no idea Brown professors could be so immature in their thinking and irresponsible in their actions. And you have done so in a talkback on the BDH. You have proven me wrong – there are immature and irresponsible professors at Brown. And massively hypocritical ones, too.

            Stick to physics, and please do it on some other campus.

          • Sean Ling

            >You accuse Prof Miller of being racist, and yet that comes directly from the “whiteness” of the biology faculty.

            I think Prof. Miller’s op-ed piece is of racist nature – because he singled out Jenny Li. The whiteness of Biology faculty is an interesting correlation.

          • plea bargain

            A plea to all commentators. As a Brown alum, I read the BDH from time to time to touch base with my Alma mater. Some of these comments are stimulating fascinating debate, but quite a few are full of ad hominen diatribe, contemptuous snubbing, or comments that are not suitable for an ivy league newspaper. As a plea, let’s try to keep our discussion reasonably respectful and within the norms of a collegiate debate. Otherwise, consider matriculating at a school like NYU or U of Phoenix where such comments are welcomed.

          • b17

            I had Professor Ling for Physics 40 last year and he was fairly incompetent. Not surprised at these remarks.

            Any criticism of someone Asian even if she’s the leader of a movement is racist? Ridiculous

          • Sean Ling

            I agree I hated doing the managing part of a large class – I would rather teach. I hope the dept. don’t ask me to manage again. Facing 250 kids all demanding an A was a nightmare. I’m sorry I disappointed you.

            Not just any criticism, singling out!

          • Sean Ling

            b17 – Thank you for your criticism of my management work for Physics 40 last year. The department and I mutually agreed that I will not manage that course for the Spring 2015 so I can spend more time on research.

          • Sean Ling

            >If you believe the world is divided into MLK vs KKK with no other
            views, then you are even more of a simpleton than the average first year
            student.

            I’m trying to apply a more rigorous analysis on the social phenomena of race. I can only see two fixed points: one is you can discriminate based on race (=Kelly-KKK), the other is you cannot (=MLK). There may exist a third fixed point if the human society can be viewed as a higher dimensional system. That third fixed point is Utopia in which humans are race-blind, but we know that does not exist. As far as I can see, all of the different kinds of fancy arguments on race in American society can be stripped down to the bare-bone level, and you can see where people stand.

    • Ken Miller

      According to SD, “Racist” now means someone who argues for free expression and against the silencing of invited speakers. Thanks, SD, for updating me on current trends in word usage!

      • Alum ’12

        Prof. Miller, would you be equally charitable to someone using the “free expression” line of argument to defend the teaching of creationism in schools? Given your testimony in Kitzmiller, I would think not. But I’m sensing some double standards here.

        • Ken Miller

          The proper analogy would be whether I would defend the right of a group on campus to host a speaker who advocated teaching creationism in the schools. In fact, that has happened several times over the years, and I have never objected. I have posted answers to their arguments, and on one occasion I gladly debated the speaker. I would have objected strongly had there been a Kelly-like attempt to silence those speakers.

          Having a campus that is open to different points of view is very different from imposing a curriculum on students who are compelled to attend a public school that is funded with public money. I would have thought that Alum ’12 would have understood that difference.

          • Alum ’12

            I agree with you that there’s a difference, but I also hope you can see that reasonable people can differ on how far the nebulous concept of “free expression” extends. Just like you think forcing public school kids to sit through a creationism class is free expression taken too far, other members of the Brown community think the same of giving Ray Kelly a platform to espouse his racist policies.

            Among the numerous acts that constitutes free expression, giving someone a podium at Brown is not sui generis. We can all agree that Ray Kelly dressing up for Halloween is a permissible form of expression, but Ray Kelly shouting “fire” in a crowded theater is not. Hopefully, you can recognize that no one can claim to be the final arbiter of where that line is drawn. You are of course free to vociferously disagree with the protesters (as you have done), but throwing “free expression” around as the be all and end all of this issue does not get us anywhere.

    • Brown ’15

      Professor Miller deeply cares about Brown students. He is one of the strongest advocates for the open curriculum, and he was one of the panelists on a recent forum about privilege in the Ivy League. I think this whole things was handled horribly. The protesters were self-aggrandizing. The school should have listened to initial concerns instead of capitulating to outside forces on a very controversial issue.

      His comments illustrate he disagrees with you. I agree with the goals of the protesters (i.e. I don’t support stop and frisk and I don’t think Kelly should have been invited after students of color notified the university that they felt betrayed by his selection as speaker). I disagree with protesting inside the auditorium while other students were trying to speak/listen.

      The problem with this whole situation is no side acted appropriately.

      • Braun ’15

        Why is that a problem? Brown is that way, and will remain that way as long as Chris Paxson sits on her butt.

  • ’15

    Ah, to live in the world of Eduarda Araujo:

    Providence police chief: Hey Ray, we’re thinking of implementing some of your ideas. How about we set up a meeting between our people?
    Ray Kelly: Nope, sorry. Gotta be a public lecture at a university. Only option. Now excuse me while I go command my military.

  • Reality Check

    Araujo and other protesters emphasized that the protest was an act of solidarity with Providence residents. She said she supports shutting down events in the future that students view as “harmful to them, to Providence or to the world.”

    The biggest problem for Araujo’s Speech Police: where to find fashionable, union-made brown shirts on the East Side.

  • TheRationale

    The intentions of the protestors are unimportant. What’s important is the precedent they set and how they set it, and what it means for the future. We all know what the road to hell is paved with – intentions are not enough.

    Can the Brown community host divisive, difficult discussions? Not if the protestors would have their way. Brown will not be the school people look to when society needs to tackle tough issues – they will look to other, more intellectually mature schools that are capable of both protest and discussion.

    • RE:Debate

      RE: Can the Brown community host divisive, difficult discussions? And What ever happened to debate?

      That lecture was not intended to be a discussion, it was intended to be a lecture with a very tiny QA. The way it was set up, did not allow for “exchanging of opposing ideas” all those against the protest keep proclaiming. It was a celebration and an HONORING of his policies. It in its original form was an already a one-sided view of his policy. GET THAT STRAIGHT.

      • Straight Debate

        In it’s original form, is the key operating phrase here. In the original form it was a 30 minute talk with a 15 minute Q & A, and we *could* equivocate back and forth on one sidedness or not. Then in response to criticism and petitions, the Q & A was lengthened to 45 minutes. In the lecture’s going form (before it was shut down by a mob), the Q & A was going to be longer than the talk itself. That’s a clear display in good faith that healthy debate was encouraged.

  • Gale Adams

    The Code of Conduct is a PR device, only existing because no school could explain why it doesn’t have one. Brown students, in the main, are intelligent enough to see that it is not enforced. One should ask the young females who were the subject of sexual assault what they think of the school’s enforcement. Brown has been justly criticized nationally for its recent actions in that rrealm.
    Our new President’s recent letter on the Kelly incident is embarrassing, trying to demonstrate that the school actually uses the code. Can someone show me where the school actually had a finding of a violation in the Kelly case. Marisa Quinn tells me that a yes or no answer to that question is confidential.

    • Gilford Adams

      Marisa Quinn is an artful liar. Chris Paxson is a pathetic liar.

  • Electra11

    As an alumna, I found the student’s protest to be an embarrassment to the school and what it stands for. What ever happened to debate, not to speak of hearing someone out? Is shutting down of free speech the “New Liberal?” That said, I am not sympathetic to Kelly’s views, but highly displeased with the narrow mindedness of some students.

  • Brown Alum

    The Kelly affair has cemented Brown’s status as a national laughingstock for its suppression by the left of free and open public discourse/debate. That a university tolerates the aggressive and hostile silencing of a speaker who advocates a policy with which Brown’s leftist students disagree is reprehensible. President Paxson’s bumbling handling of the fiasco, together with the feckless lip service she gave to free speech, are an embarrassment. The unmistakeable public perception (and, most likely, the reality) is that the student radicals are in charge, and the administration is either deathly afraid, incapable, or unwilling to challenge the liberal orthodoxy that believes that it has the right to silence and shut down any speech with which it disagrees. It’s impossible to describe how disgraceful a state of affairs that is.

  • alum 9887

    Ok, I’ve had it with those bratty Brunonians that insult Professors of this esteemed institutions with some of the worst allegations (racist, misogynist etc.) not for HOLDING a controversial position, but for defending the right to be heard.

    Then they engage in hour long debates, redefining what “free speech”, “racism” etc. really means.

    I feel ashamed Brown would accept such idiots that can’t carry a proper argument and need to resort to polemic hate-speech at all time. I know those students are just a vocal minority. In my upcoming alumni interviews, I will try to screen for such candidates that they don’t make it to campus. Other alumni should follow suit.

  • Sean Ling

    I can’t help but notice the 100% white faculty in Prof. Miller’s department, Molecular and Cell Biology, for as long as I’m at Brown ~ 20 years. Without Prof. Miller’s op-ed piece, I don’t know where to point my finger to. Now I do.

    • alum 9887

      Prof Ling, I hope you realize that all this left-wing affirmative action crap that comes out of the BDH and Brown students’ mouths will NOT improve the ratio of Asian professors or students, but Blacks and Latinos alone. I hope you realize that Asians have been excluded by the quasi-fascist left-wing movement at this University, not by words but their actions. (FYI, affirmative action used to be a tool to keep Jews out of the Ivy League, now they want to prevent Indians and S/E Asians to overrun the departments) I hope you know how Jews have to put up with swastikas smeared across campus by the uber-sensitive third-world center constituents, while having to listen to “white privilege” accusation all day long.

      Mr. Sean, maybe if you actually spent some time in the social sciences and humanities you would realize the massive cognitive dissonance in your world view (and the world view of many Brunonians).

      • Sean Ling

        I agree that I’m not a social scientist. But I bet if someone takes a close look at Prof. Miller’s department, there has to be an active or passive exclusion mechanism to keep a department at 100% white in a multicultural society for such a long time.

        • alum 9887

          This is quite an accusation Prof. Ling! You know, these days, calling somebody racist, sexist etc. can have serious repercussions. There is NOTHING in Prof Millers argument that suggests he is racist, let alone that he tries to keep minorities out of his department (Besides, do you even know if he is in such a position?). Frankly Prof. Ling, I can forgive some 19 year old Brown-brat to behave in such a way. But from one adult to another, you should calm down and choose your words more carefully.

          • Sean Ling

            which part of my sentence is not calm? I have noticed the 100% whiteness of Brown biology faculty for over a decade. I merely noticed the correlation between that fact and Prof. Miller’s singling out Jenny Li. Are you saying I’m wrong on the observation or the facts?

          • Alum… And Not a Proud One

            Yes you are wrong. Correlation does not equal fact. Observation does not equal fact. Surely a scientist knows the difference between fact, hypothesis, and mere opinion. How can you be a college professor and not know these points? Who the heck are you?

            And it is you, not Prof Miller, who has viewed Ms Li from the context of being an Asian female. Are you stating that she cannot defend herself because of these reasons? If Prof Miller was not white, would you make such a fact-lacking accusation against him? Now who is being racist and misogynist? It is you who seems to judge others by their sex and race. Do you feel like a hypocrite, because that is how you seem to come off?

            Brown already has a rough reputation in the real world because of so called protests like the ones led by Ms Li, and because of opinion-filled, fact-lacking faculty like you. Such poorly formed accusations do more harm to Brown’s name and the value of its degrees than even the protests did, and believe the many letters here, those protests were not good for Brown in the mainstream.

            Please… for our university’s sake… resign.

          • Sean Ling

            I thought of resigning from Brown 10 years ago, but I was convinced to stay. I decided that if I stay, I will change Brown for the better. So you have to deal with me for the next 20 years – I will retire at 70 and then you will not hear from me again after 2034.

            Of course I agree with you that correlation is not fact. But for a complex system, if there is a correlation, it is often a good idea to follow up on a check to see if such correlation is a real effect. Here we have an interesting phenomenon that an entity kept at 100% purity for a long time. In physics it usually means there is a passive exclusion mechanism such as hydrophobic barrier, or an active one, such as a “Maxwell’s demon” at work preventing the mixing of materials. I’m not saying Prof. Miller is that barrier or the “demon”, but it is worth a closer look at Brown biology department.

          • alum 9887

            Thanks, I have nothing to add.

            Apparently Prof. Ling has plenty of time to comment on every comment thread on the BDD. I don’t, probably because I hold a job in the real world. This university educates and attracts people that cannot and will not function in a real world environment. Brown is liberal fantasia-land. I wish Brown would require its professors and students to spend some time in a real firm, surrounded by people with different opinions and in an environment where they cannot act like a hysterical maniac.

          • Sean Ling

            I am merely trying to prevent people like you and Prof. Miller from bullying President Paxson into making a big mistake in changing our policy on “code of conduct” in such a way that kids like Jenny Li can be expelled for exercising their free speech right. The reason you and Alum .. And Not a Proud One hate me is that I pointed out the facts that made you uncomfortable. Arbitrarily making up your own house rules so you can lynch people is the mentality of KKK – accept it!

          • alum 9887

            Countering my accusation that you act like a hysterical maniac by comparing people to lynching and the KKK makes the point for me. Please Sean, go back to Physics, you have no idea what you are talking about

          • Sean Ling

            I was referring to the demand on Brown to apply the Code of Conduct on the protesting students by Prof. Miller and his followers. They did sound like a lynch mob to me.

          • Sean Ling

            I thought of resigning from Brown 10 years ago, but I was convinced to stay. I decided that if I stay, I will change Brown for the better. So you have to deal with me for the next 20 years – I will retire at 70 and then you will not hear from me again after 2034.

            Of course I agree with you that correlation is not fact. But for a complex system, if there is a correlation, it is often a good idea to follow up on a check to see if such correlation is a real effect. Here we have an interesting phenomenon that an entity kept at 100% purity for a long time. In physics it usually means there is a passive exclusion mechanism such as hydrophobic barrier, or an active one, such as a “Maxwell’s demon” at work preventing the mixing of materials. I’m not saying Prof. Miller is that barrier or the “demon”, but it is worth a closer look at Brown biology department.

          • Alum2000

            I expect that the person that “convinced you to stay “has had second thoughts. Unless, of course it was yourself. A Physics professor should know better than to cry “racism” whenever one disagrees with the views of a member of a minority. Brown should have no room in its faculty or administration for one who uses such a serious charge in such a cavalier manner.

          • Sean Ling

            Alum2000, there is buyer’s regret all around, that’s for sure! Have you seen the posts by people from your camp above: Glass House, and flyhighwithsky ? One is a blatant false allegation on a very important paper with my son, another simply racist – trying to imitate an accent I don’t have. You shouldn’t do that even if I do have such accent. Initially, I only SUSPECTED that you are racists, now I know for a fact. Shame on you! Prof. Miller, look at the crowd you are leading! You must be very proud. I know some of my colleagues find my direct physics approach to social science is uncomfortable, but it does bring the pretentious racists out of their masks very quickly, as shown above.

          • Alum2000

            Posting an exact quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet is an attempt to imitate an accent? How ? When I went to Brown, Physics majors had to study subjects in the liberal arts. Clearly not required in your education. Stick to Physics.
            Your characterization of all those who might disagree with you as masked pretentious racists is extremely objectionable and a sign of a closed mind and the height of insecurity. I disagree with Ray Kelly, but not because he’s Caucasian.

          • Sean Ling

            if you look at flyhighwithsky’s other posts, you will see he was doing a double take.

          • Alum2000

            Please direct me to the post where he was trying to imitate your nonexistent accent. I did review his previous posts and although I disagree with many of them I failed to find one where he was trying to do that.

          • Sean Ling

            His comments on President Obama are clear evidence he is a racist! Thus it is reasonable to ASSUME he did a smart double take on me trying to insult me.

          • Alum2000

            Which of his words are you referring to? Your paranoia has stimulated your imagination to run amok. I ask again; where did he post anything that alluded to your accent? Or does his disagreement with President Obama give you license to just make things up? You need to reflect on your overreaction to posts on this board.

          • Sean Ling

            Discussion on Telegraph

            Life under Obama sucks. And these numbers prove it

            flyhighwithsky


            7 days ago

            Obama is the only Affirmative Action president America has had, lets hope he is the last also.

          • Alum2000

            Ah, now I see how he was making fun of your accent.
            I suppose I am doing the same as I don’t agree with Barack Obama on all fronts, in spite of the fact that we are cousins. Sorry about making light of your accent.

    • Glass House

      Professor Ling,

      It’s incredulous you want to criticize Professor Miller on ethics when it is known through the physics department about your publishing practices, especially when it concerns your son.

      Best advice, don’t throw stones.

      • Sean Ling

        Glass House, I welcome your comment on my son’s paper which I’m quite proud of as a dad, but it is news to me that you bring it up as an ethics issue:

        Daniel Y Ling and Xinsheng Sean Ling 2013 J. Phys.: Condens. Matter 25 375102

        “On the distribution of DNA translocation times in solid-state nanopores: an analysis using Schrödinger’s first-passage-time theory”

        http://iopscience.iop.org/0953-8984/25/37/375102

        The background of this paper was talked about by me publicly in my colloquium in Brown Chemistry Department in 2013, and as well as in all of my invited talk. This paper was a direct result of Daniel’s high school summer project. Daniel was 17 at the time.

        Before Daniel’s project, the whole field of nanopore biophysics (me included) believed in an incorrect model. It was Daniel’s insistence that I look into this model more critically to see “if there is anything new his data may shed light on”. He did not have the mathematical training (second-order differential equation) to chew through the paper. I did that as a dad for him, and made a major discovery: that the solution given in the paper was wrong, and together with Daniel we found that Schrodinger had solved this problem back in 1915. I wrote up the paper for him since a high-school kid does not know how to write a journal paper. The professor in whose lab Daniel did the experiment refused to allow the data to be used in the paper (the PI owns the data in science) and he told me that he does not believe in the analysis nor want anything to do with it. So the paper was left unpublished for a year. During that period, several papers used that wrong formula to analyze data in our field. It became a serious issue in our field as the wrong formula was continuously been used unchecked (it says something about science!). The professor in another university who created the wrong formula volunteered to provide her data for us to publish our corrected analysis. The result is this paper. I struggled with the authorship of this paper since everything I did was in the role of a parent (with a PhD), and nothing was originally mine. But the outside professor who provided the data insisted on me being the corresponding author since it looks bad on the whole field if such an important correction was done by a high school kid. In order for me to justify my co-authorship, I then added a new theoretical analysis on why Schrodinger’s formula gives the identical criterion for DNA sequencing as the traditional gel electrophoresis. This new insight was my original contribution. We did not acknowledge the professor in whose lab Daniel took the original data because it was not used and because the professor told me he did not want to have anything to do with the paper.

        Every aspect of this paper has been discussed publicly in numerous occasions, with Brown physics, colloquium in Brown chemistry, talks given by me at international forums, etc. I believe I have fulfilled all of my professional obligations. This is the very first time anyone had mentioned the word “ethics” of this work. I would welcome a formal ethics investigation if you file a formal complaint with the Vice President’s office. I still have all of the original notes and records and emails.

        • flyhighwithsky

          The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

          • Sean Ling

            Your racist post confirms my suspicion of your crowd. If Prof. Miller does not condemn your post, my work is done.

      • Sean Ling

        Glass House, Regarding your advice on throwing stones, I will abide by my own rule – not to attack a student. You are forgiven for trying to throw a stone. You need to understand I did not throw a stone at Prof. Miller – my criticisms of him and his followers, and his department are not stones, these are my views against their views. Professors and students are free to hold their views – even a card-carrying Nazi cannot be fired from the university. I’m sure Brown biology dept. will ignore my criticism too. But I hope that the fact I’m counting the “first-hire time” to their first hire of a colored person – any color – will give them enough awareness. However, if a professor committed true ethical offenses such as having an affair with a student, or a scientific misconduct or falsely accusing someone of misconduct, then the professor can be dismissed even he has tenure. So in that sense, you have thrown a real stone – making a serious allegation of ethical issue in my paper with my son Daniel – a paper I’m quite proud of and happy about. Now you need to back it up with real paperwork with the office of OVPR. If you do not do that, you would have committed a false allegation – a serious offense. You will also give everyone the impression that your professor had coached you to do so – that is not good.

        • Alum

          False allegations, a subject with which you, Prof Ling, have more than a passing familiarity.

          • Sean Ling

            Give me an example!

        • GH

          What exactly did I allege? Re-read my comment. “It is known through the physics department about your publishing practices, especially when it concerns your son.” Your initial response corroborated that and expanded upon it.

          You report it was completely above board and others think while permissible was still questionable. Just views, right?

          It’s cute to know you believe a certain professor put me up to this. Is everyone plotting against you too?

          • Sean Ling

            >while permissible was still questionable

            Which part of the publishing practice I adopted in my son’s paper was permissible but still questionable? My son worked for that professor for the whole summer without pay…he got beautiful data and went to the professor to present it to him, but he was too busy, he told my son:”you can ask your dad to help.” That was when I got involved. Once I found the error in the other paper, I (as a parent) and my son presented the new analysis to that professor, he said he doesn’t believe it, and he said “you can do whatever you want, just don’t put my name on it.” I honored his wish. What more could I have done?

          • GH

            Clearly you were in a difficult (political) position and had an obligation as a scientist to make the work known. Additionally, it would be fitting for your son’s hard work in his summer research to be recognized. Getting this published and being so involved with your son is admirable parenting and you made do with the given difficult situation.

            The gray area in the account (as you report here) is the balance in the work/discovery. Given your reported imbalance in knowledge and experience between the co-authors, one must try hard to see how the first author listed was leading and directing the work. It’s a plausible scenario, and questionable. I’ll defer to your judgement.

            Let’s go through the work attribution per your account:
            -Your work
            “He did not have the mathematical training (second-order differential
            equation) to chew through the paper. I did that as a dad for him, and
            made a major discovery: that the solution given in the paper was wrong,
            and together with Daniel we found that Schrodinger had solved this
            problem back in 1915. I wrote up the paper for him since a high-school
            kid does not know how to write a journal paper.”

            “I then added a new
            theoretical analysis on why Schrodinger’s formula gives the identical
            criterion for DNA sequencing as the traditional gel electrophoresis.”

            -Daniel’s
            ” It was Daniel’s insistence that I look into this model more critically
            to see ‘if there is anything new his data may shed light on’.”

            “My son worked for that professor for the whole summer without pay…he got beautiful data”

            You can understand how lopsided this appears to another observer. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that best efforts were made, and that nothing was afoul. Oftentimes what we write and relay isn’t reflecting the hours of work. Here can also be the case.

            Clearly I initially struck a chord more than intended- mea culpa. I wanted to draw a parallel closer to you personally for you to see what you’ve been doing on the BDH with respect to others–opening up highly cynical views for others to manifest less than ideal interpretations. Others have already tried to directly reason with you and appeals to civility to no avail. The next option of later resort was to go through the motions in a separate context framed in a way you’d relate. I chose my words more carefully than you have here because I did not want to throw wild accusations. I am also giving you the benefit of the doubt as I hope others also follow. Perhaps now you can better empathize with Professor Ken Miller and others before lobbing direct and toxic accusations of racism and misogyny.

          • Sean Ling

            >first author listed was leading and directing the work

            This is no longer true in science. It is the corresponding author who is responsible for the validity of the work. My definition of first author is who made it happen. In this case, it was Daniel. I, like most other “experts” in our field, had trusted the results of an established colleague. But she made the mistake of trusting her coauthor – who trusted his PC code. Her coauthor may have noticed a factor of 2 too many in his numerical integration, but dismissed it. I was forced by Daniel to re-derive the whole solution by hand -to check if anything missing. He was the pushy boss and I was the graduate student. So he deserved the first authorship. By my own standard, I did not deserve co-authorship – it was a homework problem! But given the situation, I was forced to accept a nice gift. Without breaking my own standard, I added a section which was my original contribution.

  • Independent

    It’s a shame that a very vocal minority have been able to inflict so much damage on the University’s reputation. The ultimate damage will be on the vast majority of students that are at Brown to leverage the institution’s amazing resources and go forth into the world to make a real impact. The world will look upon your accomplishments with diminished importance because the university will be viewed as a laughing stock.

  • Ken Miller

    I find it difficult to understand why the comments on this article have degenerated to the level of personal attacks. We should be discussing the issue at hand, which is whether Brown will be an open campus in which controversial and unpopular ideas are met with reasoned opposition, or whether it will be a closed community from which certain ideas and speakers are excluded or shouted down, as was the case in the Kelly incident. A few responses to the most contentious postings:

    1) Ad hominem insults have no place in this discussion. I reject and condemn the attempt made by one commenter to discredit Prof. Ling and his publication record. He is a productive and respected member of our Physics Department, and his comments should be addressed directly and fairly, not by ad hominem slander.

    2) To correct Prof. Ling on the record – I did not “attack” Jenny Li when I wrote about the Kelly incident. I quoted her. And she is not a “student.” She is an alumna and an employee of the University. I quoted her public comments because they eloquently summed up the intentions of many, if not most, of the Kelly lecture disruptors.

    3) It is true that my department is all white, as Prof. Ling points out. We do not have a single African-American member, which is shameful in this day and age. It is also true, however, that there are no African-American members of Prof. Ling’s department, either. He cites those statistics from my department, I assume, to buttress the charge of “racism” in my comments. But I fail to see how it is “racist” to insist that Brown be a place where speakers can present their views without being shouted down and run off campus.

    4) I do wonder, however, if Prof. Ling would also use departmental statistics to support his charges of “misogyny” against me. 3/26 There are 3 women in the Physics department out of 26 faculty (12%). By contrast, my department also has 8 women out of 26, making it roughly 31% female. That’s still not parity, but it is one of the highest percentages in the sciences at Brown.

    5) Prof. Ling states that I advocate the Code of Conduct be changed so “that kids like Jenny Li can be expelled for exercising their free speech right.” That is just not true. There are two things wrong with his statement. First, I have never called for anyone to be expelled or even to be “punished.” Rather, I have simply asked that the Code of Conduct to which all students agree when they enter this institution be followed. The nature of enforcement is not up to me, but rather to the disciplinary process itself, and I have never called for punishment, and certainly not for expulsion. Second, the disruption of a lecture is not “free speech,” and I am surprised that Prof. Ling does not understand the difference.

    6) In addition to rejecting personal attacks on the integrity of Prof. Ling (see #1, above), I also reject the use of inflammatory language, such as “lynch mob.” And I do not understand why he chooses to use such slanderous terms, reducing the level of discussion to personal insult.

    • Sean Ling

      1) thank you!

      2) I’m okay with using police to drag her out of the lecture hall during the lecture, but not applying the code of conduct afterwards.

      3) >there are no African-American members of Prof. Ling’s department, either.

      The lack of African-American in physics is a supply-chain issue. I can assure you there is no exclusion mechanism in physics department.

      4) I do wonder, however, if Prof. Ling would also
      use departmental statistics to support his charges of “misogyny” against
      me. 3/26 There are 3 women in the Physics department out of 26 faculty
      (12%). By contrast, my department also has 8 women out of 26, making
      it roughly 31% female. That’s still not parity, but it is one of the
      highest percentages in the sciences at Brown.

      This is unfair comparison! We have a hard time keeping women in physics because of many structural issues – tenure clock for example. Our system is just not nice to women: say a woman chooses to go to a PhD after undergrad, she will be 27-28 when she gets her Ph.D. In our business, you really need postdoc experiences, 2-4 years there. When she is tenure track, she is 29-32. Then, the tenure clock is at 35-38 – she just missed her best time to become a mother! I had a very smart undergrad who went on to get her PhD and do her postdoc, she is still unmarried at 35 – I have to wonder whether I had done damage or service to her life by encouraging her to do PhD in physics. I assume biology is easier since you can still do experiment while pregnant. In my field of condensed matter experiment, that would be physically dangerous due to cryogenics and strong magnetic field we use.

      5) ..the disruption of a lecture is not “free speech,”.

      I said you can use police to drag out protestors, that’s what I would do if I were in charge.

      6)In addition to rejecting personal attacks on the integrity of Prof. Ling (see #1, above), I also reject the use of inflammatory language, such as “lynch mob.”

      It is a figure of speech!

      • Shame

        This is literally one of the dumbest things I have ever read. You failed to address most of Professor Miller’s points, and show minimal knowledge of English grammar.

        Mostly though, your responses to Professor Miller’s uses of statistics are absolutely ridiculous. I’m sure many of those same justifications like “supply-chain issue” could easily be applied to biology.

        • Sean Ling

          Ok, I corrected my typos in my post above. Regarding statistics, the supply-chain issue is a bigger challenge for physics than for biology. This is an established fact.

          • Alum

            The supply chain argument is a favorite of racists and sexists, used to justify imbalances in representation, regardless of the truth. It is shocking to see the Professor use it in light of his characterization of everyone but him as racist.

          • Sean Ling

            Let’s dig into data then, from American Physical Society: http://www.aps.org/programs/education/statistics/degreesbyrace.cfm

            In the period of 2006-2008, the percent of Bachelor degrees in physics awarded to African American is about 3.7%; for Ph.D. in physics is about 2.4%. In other words, for 100 physics Ph.D.s, by the time they are applying to tenure-track jobs, the number is down to 1-2.

          • Alum

            According to your source, there are about 20 African Americans getting Physics PhD’s each year. If your Department really cared about this kind of diversity, it has had many years to acquire one. Anything is available if one is willing to pay the market price for it. Instead, your Department claims a supply chain problem, while claiming a racism basis for the lack of such diversity in other departments. Maybe racism is or isn’t the reason for the situation in both departments. Just how active have you personally been in pressing your Department Head over the past 10 years to solve this problem?
            Just adding a little real life to letting the numbers speak.

          • Sean Ling

            >20 African Americans getting Physics PhD’s each year

            That number is for all of physics: astro, cosmo, atomic, laser, ultra-fast, molecu., bio., string, particle, nuclear, applied, materials, soft condensed matter, hard condensed matter. In condensed matter, in my 19 years at Brown, I had seen one applicant who was African American. Before we even got started, she already got offers from places much better than Brown.

          • Alum

            In order to be part of the Physics faculty at Brown, does one really have to specialize in condensed matter? Why? You ignored my question as to just how active you have been in personally trying to acquire African Americans into the Physics Depth. Maybe racism is the reason you haven’t worked hard on the is due in your 19 years there. Or maybe not.

          • Sean Ling

            I’m glad to answer your question – a good one. Brown physics has been small comparing to peers – Princeton has ~ 60 comparing to us at 24. Because of this limitation, we chose to focus on very few fields – condensed matter is one. I’m not ignoring your question of whether I have done enough for diversity in my department which already has 20% minority (biology has 0% minority) – including me, the answer is no. I wish I could do more and like to do more if given the opportunity.