As president of the University and as a scholar of the First Amendment, I have always taken great pride in the richness and variety of voices on our campuses. A university is a special place for the exchange of views and ideas, and it is critical that our policies be conducive to a spirited intellectual life. It is also important that members of the university community conduct themselves with civility and with tolerance for the diverse groups that make up our campuses. Two recent events, one on- campuses and one off-campus, violate those policies and deserve the strongest possible condemnation.
When a small group of students at UC Irvine attempted to shout down Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, they were not engaging, as some have claimed, in “free speech.” Quite the opposite. The constitution does not protect the right to suppress the speech of others. Chancellor Michael Drake issued a strong statement condemning the students’ behavior. In addition to being arrested, the students will face campus disciplinary processes. It is ironic that the same students whose speech rights Chancellor Drake protected, despite the incendiary nature of many of the views expressed, apparently don’t think that those who have a different point of view have the freedom to express themselves on campus. So that members of the UC community can constructively and respectfully air their differences, Chancellor Drake has also instituted a series of discussions.(http://www.chancellor.uci.edu/100217_civility.php) I fully support Chancellor Drake’s actions.
I was also deeply distressed by an off-campus racist event involving a small group of UCSD students this past weekend mocking the commemoration of Black History Month. This behavior is offensive not only to the African-American community, but to all who are dedicated to the principles of diversity and civility that must prevail on any campus. Chancellor Marye Anne Fox condemned the incident in the strongest terms and has also instituted campus disciplinary proceedings. (http://diversity.ucsd.edu/statement.html) Chancellor Fox has also scheduled a teach-in to be held next week so that members of the UCSD community may learn from the incident. As university officials noted, “The remedy for dangerous, offensive or extreme speech is more speech, not less.” I fully support Chancellor Fox and endorse the efforts of all who are working to heal the wounds caused by these two incidents.