Letters to the Editor

Letters: Protest blocked free speech

Monday, November 4, 2013

I strongly oppose stop-and-frisk. Experts disagree on whether or not it reduces crime, but that begs the point. It is an affirmation of racial profiling and collective guilt. It humiliates its victims, mostly minorities, in a society that often holds prejudices against people of color. Humiliation is the most heinous form of insult. It leaves wounds almost impossible to cure. Even if these policies somewhat reduce crime, the price is far too high.

Notwithstanding this opinion, I abhor behavior that prevents a speaker at Brown from expressing his or her views. Protest is a valid form of disagreement. However, when it infringes on the right of free speech, it is certainly not. Throughout history, people have been persecuted for their ideas. Not that long ago McCarthyism corroded our own civil society. Universities must be a citadel for freedom of expression, constructive dissent and openness to ideas. If not here, then where?

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is an honorable man who has committed his life to the service of public safety. He is not a racist. He believes passionately that his policies protect minorities. Many of us disagree, but we have devalued ourselves and our University by not allowing him to speak.

Brown is approaching its 250th anniversary. We will not abandon our core values — they reside in every sinew of our collective being. Some argue Kelly’s policies are so vile that they are justified in their behavior, however contrary to the code of conduct and the essence of a democratic society. That justification is quite a stretch in this circumstance. Moreover, what hubris for anyone to appoint themselves as the deciders of what ideas the Brown community is permitted to discuss.

The protesters prevented the listeners from deciding this issue for themselves. They lost the chance for a robust question and answer session after the speech. They ignored values that are prerequisites to the liberal education that they came here to receive. Whatever their goal, they paid too high a price.


Stephen Robert ’62 P’91

Chancellor of the University, Emeritus



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