Distributed March 20, 2001
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel

A statement from Interim President Blumstein

A call for support, debate and dialogue to resolve disagreements

At the March faculty meeting, Interim President Sheila E. Blumstein reaffirmed the University’s defining values of free speech and expression. She also called upon the Brown community to support those who were offended by the March 13 publication of an ad in the Brown Daily Herald, and to move forward with discussion, debate and dialogue.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — During the regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Brown University faculty today (March 20), Interim President Sheila E. Blumstein discussed recent campus events related to publication of an advertisement in the March 13 Brown Daily Herald. After the meeting she issued the following statement:

Today, Brown University – students, faculty and the administration – is faced with the opportunity to address two important issues: freedom of the press and community values. While these issues appear to be dichotomous, in fact they are not. Each of them speaks to core principles that we hold as an institution of higher learning.

Regarding freedom of speech and expression I believe that the University response has been clear and unambiguous. We have reaffirmed the defining value of freedom of speech and expression. We have underscored our commitment to the right of individuals to hold and express views, as offensive as they may be to others. And we have rejected any attempts to silence or intimidate others as the vehicle for responding to such views.

A week ago, an advertisement was published in the Brown Daily Herald that was offensive to many students, faculty members, staff and administrators. Even as we uphold our principles, we cannot deny the impact the publication of this advertisement has had on the Brown community as a whole. It was written to be inflammatory. In addition, it was deliberately and deeply hurtful.

As a community, we have an obligation to look out for each other and to treat each other with respect. In this particular instance, supporting those members of the community who feel most hurt must also be one of our defining values.

How, then, should we move forward? This is a university – we are the ideal place to hold a forum for discussion and dialogue about the ideas and claims made in the ad. The power of words is strong – and they can provide yet another platform for showing our support – by challenging alternative points of view through reason and argumentation, by sifting through ideas and reaching a conclusion about the appropriate way to present differing perspectives.