Brown: An Ivy League Kindergarten
In the aftermath of a student mob refusing to let New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly speak on the campus of Brown University (tuition + room and board: $55,016, administrators brought students and faculty together for a public meeting. From the report:
Jenny Li ’14, a leader of the protest, told forum attendees she was disappointed no media outlets had reported on the text of the statement protestors had recited at the lecture.
Li invited attendees to recite the group’s chant with her in a call-and-response format. “Asking tough questions is not enough,” she said. “Brown is complicit. We stand in solidarity with the Providence anti-racism movement, and all those impacted by racial profiling.”
Li said she and many other students felt emotionally “triggered” by Kelly’s presence, adding that protestors considered their shutdown of the talk a “win.”
They couldn’t help themselves, you see. Just seeing Ray Kelly on their campus pushed an emotional button, and they exploded with rage.
Administrators then invited discussion group members to share the content of their dialogues. Josette Souza ’14 volunteered to speak first, directing her comments at Paxson.
“Ray Kelly is a terrorist, and he’s terrorizing our communities,” Souza said. “Until you feel terrorism in your life, I don’t think you have the right to speak on this subject.”
Students’ comments throughout the forum were punctuated by snapping and applause.
Many students said they felt personally offended by Kelly’s presence and believed the University should not have invited him to campus.
“To those of you who don’t understand the emotion, what sort of invasion of your privacy or denial or patronizing and marginalization of your personhood could make your voice shake the way that mine is shaking right now?” said Ruby Fore ’17.
Got it. One’s status as a member of a victim group is what grants one’s opinion weight, and even, according to Josette Souza, the right to have an opinion at all.
Here’s a student who gives voice to the Cher Principle: “Words are like weapons/They wound sometimes”:
“For me, protesting Ray Kelly and shutting down his speech had nothing to do with ideas,” said Justice Gaines ’16, who helped organize the protest. “It had to do with the safety of my body on this campus,” he said, adding that he felt uncomfortable at Kelly’s scheduled lecture because the commissioner seemed to be “preaching” to several rows in List Art Center 120 — the auditorium in which the event took place — that Gaines said were reserved for police officers.
Because the police commissioner of the City of New York is basically Ernst Röhm, there on the Brown campus to rile up local stormtroopers.
At least the Brown administrators stood up for the right to free speech, the right of other students and faculty to have heard the Kelly lecture, and the obligation of a university community to allow unpopular opinions to be stated — this, as part of what it means to become an educated citizen in a free, pluralistic democracy. Oh wait, except they didn’t:
Marion Orr, director of the Taubman Center, which sponsored Kelly’s lecture, expressed regret for the controversy.
“I sincerely apologize to my students,” Orr said. “Especially to my black students and Latino brothers and sisters — it wasn’t my intention to hurt you, and it hurts me to hear that my decision caused so much pain.”
Orr asked the students to submit a list of speakers whom they would not approve of coming to campus, adding that he never expected the intense reaction to Kelly’s event. Orr later wrote in an email to The Herald that notion was meant to point out that a list of speakers like this should not exist and to provoke thought about such a list’s implications.
What a ridiculous man, a straight-up coward. Brown University is a place in which a whiny minority of hysterics can dictate who the entire community is allowed to listen to — and the university’s administration capitulates to this anti-democratic, anti-intellectual mob. If you spend a thin dime to send your kid to this Ivy League kindergarten, much less $55,000 a year, you deserve to be parted from your money.
[H/T: Reader JB]