At Brown, Radical Disregard for Free Inquiry

imagesBrown University’s response to the student overthrow of Ray Kelly’s lecture has been downright despicable, even by far-left standards.

On Oct. 29, the New York Police Department Commissioner was scheduled to speak on the role of proactive policing. But, after a half hour of raucous interruptions, Ray Kelly departed, unable to speak a single sentence.  When Marissa Quinn, Vice President for Public Affairs, attempted to intervene and told the crowd, “I have never seen in my 15 years at Brown the inability to have a dialogue,” protestors cheered.

As one protestor put it, “They didn’t respond to our demand to cancel the lecture, so, today, we canceled it for them.”

Keep in mind that the lecture was funded as apart of a series paid for by the family of a student who tragically died shortly after graduating Brown in 1993. Most of the lecturers the family has invited have been liberal Democrats, and the deceased student’s father was interested in fostering more robust debate. But never mind the wishes of a philanthropic family. The protestors justified their antics on the grounds that Brown refused to cancel the lecture and donate funds to activist-approved funds “to stop racial profiling.”

So far, there’s been no suggestion from University officials that the students who actively prevented Kelly from speaking will be disciplined for violating Brown’s express commitment to free inquiry. In fact, the college seems to be going out of its way to entertain the demands of the activists.

In an assembly of 600 students on Oct. 30, Brown students and faculty gathered to express the fall-out of the protest. Outrageously, Marion Orr, director of the Taubman Center, which was responsible for inviting Kelly, apologized for inviting Kelly. That’s right, rather than apologizing to Kelly and the Brown students who were prevented from hearing Kelly speak, Orr, announced, “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.”

You can lead a protest, shut down others’ right to speak, and have the director of a program that you’ve nationally humiliated issue a partial endorsement of your radical tactics. Duly noted.

Orr went further and suggested that students offer up a list of unacceptable speakers, so that the Center can avoid inviting any non-kosher lecturers in the future. The Brown Daily Herald reports that Orr has attempted to walk back that statement.

Regardless, rather than a robust defense of free speech—and discipline for protestors who violated Brown’s policies—the University has scheduled a series of faculty teach-ins to explore the “historical context of stop-and-frisk.” That’s right, students overthrew a controversial speaker and were rewarded with an insular panel that confirmed their own views. No pro-proactive policing guests or professors have appeared on the panels.

Students at the event told the Brown Daily Herald that this was indeed a “nuanced issue”—so nuanced that conflicting opinions need not be engaged.

I don’t doubt the problems inherent with stop-and-frisk (though crime in New York is undeniably down). But the Constitutional case against New York’s controversial policing strategy has rested on the Fourth Amendment. To get to the Fourth, you have to read the First.


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