NYU Responds

 Posted by on 31 March 2006 at 8:31 am  Uncategorized
Mar 312006

One of the good folks from Front Range Objectivism received a reply to his letter to NYU:

From: John Beckman [john.beckman@nyu.edu]
To: Richard Watts [rw1963@earthlink.net]
Sent: 3/31/2006 6:27:37 AM
Subject: RE: censorship of cartoons

Dear Mr. Watts –

I appreciate your writing to share your thoughts. However, I must disagree with your views on this matter and challenge your understanding of the facts.

The Objectivist Club, a recognized student organization, indicated a few days ago that it intended to host an event about free speech and the Danish cartoons. This was all well and fine. It emerged later that the event would include an actual display of the cartoons.

As awareness of the event spread around campus, Muslim organizations at NYU asked the University to intervene to prevent the display, indicating that they considered the cartoons grievously offensive.

Frankly, it is not clear why a discussion of free speech and the Danish cartoons could not have taken place without the display of the cartoons. Given the sensitivities of one segment of our community, that would have been the preferable course. However, the students of the Objectivist Club felt otherwise.

This decision was a balance between the serious concerns of one segment of our community, on the one hand, and NYU’s tradition of free speech and free exchange of ideas on the other. The University decided — and this seems to be, judging from your letter, a critical area of misunderstanding on your part — that the traditions of free speech must prevail. The University told both the Objectivist Club and its Muslim community that the display WOULD be allowed at the event.

Any reasonable person knows that the display of these cartoons has been accompanied by violence throughout the world. Every institution has a responsibility to ensure that an event held on its grounds goes off smoothly, safely, and without disruption. The inclusion of the cartoons in the event caused the University decide to limit the audience to members of the NYU community, a rather large group (NYU is America’s largest private university) including some 40,000 students and some 15,000 faculty, administrators, and staff.

On Wednesday afternoon, a few hours before the event, the student leadership of the club came to the University and indicated it had changed its mind: it would choose not to display the cartoons, and would like to be able to invite about 75 people to the event who were not members of the NYU community. The University agreed, but let’s be clear: the students made this choice, and they made it after the University had indicated to one and all that the event could go forward WITH the cartoons displayed.

Accordingly, I must disagree with your characterization that free speech was abridged on this campus. I am aware that there are outside groups that have sought to portray these circumstances differently, presumably for their own purposes, but these portrayals are not correct.

I hope this provides a better, clearer understanding of events.

– John Beckman

Since I’m a bit busy this morning, I’ll leave the fisking of that for my readers in the comments.

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