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Letter: Poll reflects variety of opinions that must be respected

As a new graduate student at Brown, I was disappointed that protesters managed to shut down the recent talk by New York City Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly. A poll published in The Herald Nov. 6 (“Poll shows mixed opinions on Ray Kelly, coal divestment”) suggests that a large majority of undergraduates also disapproved. However, 71 percent of poll respondents did not object to “circulating a petition beforehand to cancel the lecture.”

Although I am not fully aware of the details of “stop-and-frisk,” I would tend to be suspicious of the policy insofar as it promotes unwarranted searches of individuals based largely on race. Nevertheless, to cancel a talk because some students, even a majority of students, disagreed with the speaker would establish an insidious precedent. In an open, pluralist society, we must expect to regularly hear views we oppose and which we may even find offensive. For who shall determine what is offensive?

The late author Christopher Hitchens once asked an audience to name whom they would deem fit to determine what ideas they should or should not hear or what books they should or should not read. Is there a single person or group of people at Brown whom we would entrust with the task of determining which talks should or should not be permitted on campus? I suspect all of us, protesters included, would reply in the negative.


Carlos Silva GS



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