October 26, 2007
I am writing this as I return from the American Association of Universities' (AAU) meeting at the University of California, Irvine. The AAU is an organization comprised of 62 of the largest and most prominent research universities in the United States and Canada.
The AAU presidents and chancellors meet twice a year to discuss topics of mutual interest. This meeting was devoted to conflicts of interest, animal research, critical issues in higher education and freedom of speech on college campuses.
This last topic has been making the news on many campuses in recent weeks, including at Tulane. On Monday, a Tulane student group invited a particularly controversial speaker to campus. As a general principle, I have no regard for people who engage in hate speech, are intolerant and dismissive of opposing views or advocate views not based on any credible evidence.
Yet, putting aside my personal views about the value of this week's event, I strongly defend the right of the Tulane student group to extend the invitation and the right of their guest to speak on campus, especially since the speaker permitted open questioning from the audience. The resulting interchange provided an opportunity for counterviews to be considered, which often leads to enhanced learning.
Free speech is at the core of democracy and must be preserved at all costs despite the fact that at times it makes us uncomfortable or even outraged. However, think for a moment of the alternative. In my mind, it is not a desirable place to be.
But here is a good place to be: Homecoming and Parent/Family Weekend.
Have a great time,
Office of the President Emeritus, 1555 Poydras St, Suite 700, New Orleans, LA 70112 504-274-3638 firstname.lastname@example.org