'permit' these events because, first, in truth, we can
wholly prevent them -- and in each of these recent cases,
those responsible acted legally, were clearly identified,
and did not hide behind the illicit screens of anonymity
or vandalism. Second, we permit them because tolerating
the intolerable idea is the price of the freedom of expression
without which we cannot survive as an academic institution.
But third, and most important, we permit them because
doing so is the only way to change things. Hearing the
hateful is the only way to identify and educate the hater.
Seeing the offensive is a necessary step to understanding
and rejecting the perspective from which it comes. Seriously
considering even the most distasteful idea is the absolute
precondition to arguing effectively against it.
are places in our society where freedom of expression
serves the search for truth and justice. By mission and
by tradition, universities are open forums in which competing
beliefs, philosophies, and values contend. Some will appear
ill-informed, disrespectful, vengeful; in exposing and
challenging them, their flaws become self-evident. That
is why we do not close off debate by official pronouncement.
That is why we must use such incidents to promote debate,
to spotlight the hater, and to expose the hateful to the
light of day.
The University administration's job is to support . .
. dialogue and debate, not to cut it off; to create an
environment in which we can educate each other, not one
in which doctrine or orthodoxy are legislated from on
we provide 'moral leadership' to the Penn community? Absolutely.
But moral leadership requires suasion not censorship,
conscience not coercion. Most of all, it requires insisting
that we--all of us--talk about what troubles us. We must
all use such occasions to fulfill the University's educational
mission for each other. Part of that mission is to educate
for leadership, and we must each take responsibility to
respond to our own moral compass in ways that better the
life of our community.
are the life-blood of our university. For all their limitations,
even if they sometimes drive us apart, words are what
bind us together in the academy. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
understood the power of words. He believed that we must
use them to talk about the difficult and painful issues
that divide us, about race and about religion, about politics
and about power, about gender and about identity. But
I urge you to choose carefully the words you use. The
words of hatred and bigotry, insult and ignorance, destroy
dialogue and community and must be answered. I hope the
day will come when no one in our community will use such
words or inflict pain on others with intent. But until
then, when we are faced with words of offense and awfulness,
we must draw those who use them into the dialogue of ideas.
That is the essential precondition of the dynamics of
change. That is why we must censure speech, but
never censor speakers.
[T]his community has found that we cannot, with policies
and procedures, legislate the unlegislatable. But, as
a community, we must demand adherence to the norms of
rational argument and simple civility, which are so important
to furthering the dialogue of ideas. We must learn what
Dr. King called "obedience to the unenforceable,"
learning to show the care and compassion for each other
that no law or regulation can enforce.
[L]et us raise the level of the discourse, dispense with
the intention to hurt, and each take more responsibility
for all the members of our community.