In an email sent to undergraduate students Tuesday night, the University urged students to remember the importance of free speech. The email follows an incident on Friday when protestors, at least one of whom was a Penn student, shut down an event featuring CIA Director John Brennan at the Penn Museum.
In the email, Provost Vincent Price and Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum called free speech a “treasured freedom” and asked students to familiarize themselves with the University’s Guidelines on Open Expression — though they did not directly address the protest or Brennan's talk.
“As you exercise your right to free expression, it is critical that you also respect the rights of others to express their ideas and thoughts,” Price and Swain-Cade McCoullum wrote. “The freedom goes both ways.”
Protestors interrupted a moderated discussion between Penn moderators and Brennan three times on Friday, finally causing the event to end early. Several individuals inside the event held up signs that read “Drone strikes breed terrorism” and shouted phrases like “drones kill kids” and “black lives matter,” while those outside handed out flyers that criticized the CIA as “the most destructive terrorist organization in the world today.”
One of the protestors inside the Penn Museum was Engineering junior and member of Students for a Democratic Society Lucas Lipatti. Several other Penn students and SDS members also protested outside.
Protesters were met with pushback. Penn Law Dean Theodore Ruger said to the protesters during the event, “We’ve heard your views, we respect your views. What you’re doing now is silencing speech.” Later, the conservative-leaning campus publication The Statesman created an online petition asking that SDS apologize for disrupting the talk.
“Members of our community will at times be confronted with ideas that they fundamentally oppose,” Price and Swain-Cade McCoullum said in the email. “The solution is not to suppress the ideas we reject, but instead to counter those ideas with better ones.”Comments powered by Disqus
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