To the Campus Community:
Free speech and intellectual debate, even when uncomfortable, are critical for thriving communities. And yet some speech, although legally protected, is intended primarily to insult, demean and spark outrage among members of our community.
Recently a student group invited an outside speaker to give a talk on campus. The title of the talk referenced what the speaker “hated” about Mexico – a country with deep ties to our city, our state and our nation. This is also a country that is an important part of the heritage of many Bruins. The expression of disdain did not appear to be an attempt to engage in reasoned discussion, but rather a move by the speaker to gain notoriety through a mean-spirited, racially tinged publicity stunt. This kind of tactic and his rhetoric are totally contrary to our values. I was grateful to learn earlier today that the sponsoring student group decided to cancel the event.
As a prominent university, we will continue to be a target for such provocateurs. I hope we will all continue to resist such provocations and further nurture our campus culture, which values ideas over hatred.
Gene D. Block
➡ Statement from Vice Chancellor Jerry Kang: “Universities across the country are struggling to protect both freedom of speech and the lawful freedom to protest, while addressing the basic safety needs of the entire community. UCLA is no exception. When an official student organization invites a speaker according to standard procedures, the administration must honor that invitation no matter how horrendous or intellectually vacuous. We also do not allow protests to become so disruptive as to silence the invited speaker from communicating with a willing audience. That said, we are not shy about expressing our own values. I explicitly and publicly reject inflammatory trolling, designed to trick students into fueling desperate celebrity. Let’s have a serious conversation about immigration, or any other matter, instead of taking the bait.”
- Coverage by the Los Angeles Times (featuring statements from Chancellor Block, Vice Chancellor Jerry Kang, and UCLA students)
➡ Open Letter from Professor Gabriel Rossman (informal faculty advisor to the student group)
➡ Facebook Page for the Student Group (statement regarding the event cancellation near the top of the page)