Brown Forms Committee in Response to Kelly Heckling

by Alec Torres

After New York City Police commissioner Raymond Kelly was heckled off stage by students at Brown University during a speech on October 29, Brown has responded by forming a committee charged with the ambiguous duty of “making findings and recommendations to [the president]” regarding the Kelly event.

In a letter from the president’s office, President Christina Paxson said, “It is impossible not to empathize with our students who strongly object to stop-and-frisk policies and racial profiling. Their feelings, in many cases based on personal experiences, are visceral, raw and genuine.” However, she also recognized that some students and others were upset to not hear Kelly speak and get to ask him questions.

Paxson went on to cite the Brown Code of Student Conduct which states the following:

Protest is a necessary and acceptable means of expression within the Brown community. However, protest becomes unacceptable when it obstructs the basic exchange of ideas. Such obstruction is a form of censorship, no matter who initiates it or for what reasons.

In order to respond to the controversy, Paxson established a committee of five faculty members, two undergraduates, and one graduate student. The committee will first “review the activities and circumstances related to the October 29 lecture and identify issues that may have contributed to the disruption,” and then “address the broader issues of campus climate, free expression, and dialogue.”

While many have decried the Brown students’ obvious (and successful) attempt to stifle free speech, others have rushed to the would-be censors’ defense. Rhania Khalek of the Nation, for example, praised the Brown university students for silencing a “bigot” who, according to Khalek, once said he wants to “’instill fear’ in black and Latino men ‘every time that they [leave] their homes.’” Kelly has flatly denied the claims that he has ever said that, nor has he said anything similar on record.

As of yet, no disciplinary action has been taken against the disruptive students.

Via New York Magazine.

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