To the Editor: The announcement that Penn has become the latest political football in the Napster battle ("Singers ask Penn to silence Napster," The Daily Pennsylvanian, 9/13/00) places the University in the dangerous position of being asked by outsiders to establish an orthodoxy regulating which Internet sites its students and professors are free to visit. The implications at the moment seem benign; banning Napster would be a minor inconvenience until users moved to alternatives like Scour or download "cracked" versions of Napster's software. Yet banning Napster involves much more serious questions of academic freedom. If the University decides to regulate access to one service's content, the precedent could lead to suppression of other controversial sites of greater academic importance. Indeed, the University is being asked to become our "Net Nanny." Napster's lack of academic worth, and even questions about its content's legality, are irrelevant. Penn recognizes as a hallmark of academic freedom that regulations it imposes should be content neutral. Moreover, content-based restrictions on speech and access to resources, attempted by other schools in the heyday of McCarthyism, have been widely rejected by courts. The musicians' lack of understanding and respect for the core functions of a university has lead them to place Penn in the unfortunate position of choosing between defending a likely lawsuit or caving in and becoming a censor. It is a shame that these wealthy musicians feel the need to sue non-profit institutions like universities. Defending a potential lawsuit will waste my tuition and our donors' gifts, but it is necessary to uphold the University's right not to be forced by outsiders to establish an orthodoxy of which content is approved and which content is not approved.
Adrian Jones Wharton '01Comments powered by Disqus
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