'permit' these events because, first, in truth, we can never
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 high.
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
[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.