Many students turned out for a powerful panel discussion on the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this week. The panelists underscored issues of structural racism in general and police brutality in particular. Earlier in the week The Argus published an op-ed that questioned whether “the [BLM] movement itself [is] actually achieving anything positive? Does it have the potential for positive change?” Many students took strong exception to the article; it was meant to be a provocative piece. Some students not only have expressed their disagreement with the op-ed but have demanded apologies, a retraction and have even harassed the author and the newspaper’s editors. Some are claiming that the op-ed was less speech than action: it caused harm and made people of color feel unsafe.

Debates can raise intense emotions, but that doesn’t mean that we should demand ideological conformity because people are made uncomfortable. As members of a university community, we always have the right to respond with our own opinions, but there is no right not to be offended. We certainly have no right to harass people because we don’t like their views. Censorship diminishes true diversity of thinking; vigorous debate enlivens and instructs.

In the long run, Wesleyan will be a much more caring and inspiring community when we can tolerate strong disagreements. Through our differences we can learn from one another.

Michael Roth, President

Joyce Jacobsen, Provost

Antonio Farias, Vice-President for Equity and Inclusion

  • Cliff’s Tux-table

    “Debates can raise intense emotions, but that doesn’t mean that we should demand ideological conformity because people are made uncomfortable. As members of a university community, we always have the right to respond with our own opinions, but there is no right not to be offended. We certainly have no right to harass people because we don’t like their views. Censorship diminishes true diversity of thinking; vigorous debate enlivens and instructs.”

    Bingo. Thank you. I think Wesleyan should have a mandatory seminar in place for all prefrosh during orientation, with this issue as the main topic of discussion.

  • Keith Alverson

    Thank you for this statement. Self righteous, and poorly articulated, silencing of reasonably argued, legitimate opposition views (as this article clearly was) backfire in the long run. The bigger picture is watching the real opposition cackle with glee at their next opportunity to lambaste the degree to which liberal universities appear at times to have lost the plot on simple tolerance values. Recall the politically correct speech guidelines committee at UNH that actually wrote use of the term ‘American’ in referring to the USA was unadvisable due to the fact that it disenfranchised central and south Americans. Please. Tolerance is trump (the bridge term not the political candidate).

    • Anonymous

      The pendulum swings both ways. As they spew their hate they will become hated. Genocides happen this way. Over and over, throughout history, since the dawn of man. Another one will be coming soon.

  • Anonymous

    A refreshing statement. Hopefully, the Argus will not be turned into some version of Pravda. In addition, the BLM movement should not be engaging in intimidation and silencing of criticism. Any students found engaging in such conduct should be disciplined.

  • Connor Aberle

    If you think that this has anything to do with freedom of speech, you aren’t listening.

    • vivek

      They’re listening, they just disagree. That’s allowed when you have free speech.

    • Cliff’s Tux-table

      And if you think that this doesn’t, you aren’t thinking.

    • Connor Aberle

      This was about the Argus and their decision to publish that poorly researched opinion piece. No one is being silenced. The author even still has his position on Argus staff.

      • Natalie Dormer

        The “protest letter” promised to recycle every copy of the Argus they find on campus. This means they will take all the papers and throw them away, so nobody can read them.

        If that isn’t censorship, then the word has no meaning. These people are book burners.

      • Man with Axe

        No thanks to you.

      • CoryIntheHouse

        So the threat to boycott the paper and steal copies somehow doesn’t equate to someone being silenced?
        You should grow up a little. You have no idea what you’re talking about and you sound like a petulant 5 year old.

      • Anonymous

        Poor snowflake. Maybe your mommy can give you a nice hug and make it all better.

  • Summerfields Burrito
  • Man with Axe

    President Roth, this is a pleasure to read. If you still have your job after trying to teach civility and civil liberties to your students I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  • Dear Mr. Roth/Jacobsen/Farias,

    Well done.

  • Anonymous

    Democrats are the hatemongers who threaten anyone who criticizes them.

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  • Keith Alverson
  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this defense of free speech. The response to speech you don’t like is more speech, not silencing of other people’s speech.

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