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Amid ongoing protests, Brown U. backs off criticism of Herald theft

By Andy Golodny

Brown Daily Herald (Brown U.)


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(U-WIRE) PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- As protests against The Herald continued Tuesday, Interim President Sheila Blumstein tempered her criticism of a coalition of students who stole nearly 4,000 copies of The Herald Friday.

Blumstein, who on Saturday released a statement condemning the theft of the newspapers from some 15 locations around campus, Tuesday amended her position to express concern for the many members of the Brown community who were offended by a controversial advertisement printed March 14 in The Herald.

"Even as we uphold our principles, we cannot deny the impact the publication of this advertisement has had on the Brown community as a whole," she said in a statement. "It was written to be inflammatory. In addition, it was deliberately and deeply hurtful."

Blumstein called on the Brown community to respond to the hurt some members of the community suffered after the ad's publication.

"We have an obligation to look out for each other and to treat each other with respect," Blumstein said in her statement. "In this particular instance, supporting those members of the community who feel most hurt must also be one of our defining values."

Blumstein's second public statement comes in the midst of a national controversy over freedom of speech on college campuses that has found its epicenter here at Brown. The front page of the New York Times Wednesday carries a story on the controversy, and in recent days the story has been picked up by the Washington Post, ABC News and the BBC.

Blumstein released her statement after discussing the advertisement at a regularly scheduled monthly faculty meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Blumstein said the University is an "ideal place to hold a forum for discussion and dialogue," and that the community should be looking to move forward.

The faculty meeting was contentious at points, with some members arguing over the correct response to the ad.

"I am concerned that some students insist that taking the BDH is not thievery," said Philip Bray, professor of physics. "Those papers were stolen from thousands of students, staff and faculty, and that is theft."

A chorus of about a dozen "hear hear"s came from the audience of faculty members after Bray's statement.

A moment later, Lewis Gordon, director of the Afro-American studies program, took the floor to chastise his colleagues.

"Some of my colleagues need to have some sense of reduced self-righteousness," he said. "It is utter insensitivity to leap to certain conclusions about acts of civil disobedience.

"You can say 'hear hear,' but I find it grotesquely hypocritical," he said.

On Tuesday some students expressed concern over the administration's response to Friday's theft of nearly the entire Herald press run.

Carl Takei '02, President of the Brown ACLU and a founding member of Students of Color Against Censorship (SCAC), a new group formed to oppose the coalition of students who stole the copies The Herald, e-mailed Blumstein to urge a stern response.

"A number of individuals on this campus have described the Horowitz ad as being 'hate speech' or a 'hate assault,' in an attempt to justify the coalition's claims that this is not a free speech issue," he wrote. "The Horowitz ad is clearly a political advocacy piece."

Takei was concerned by reports that during a meeting with Herald editors Monday night some members of the administration expressed agreement with the claim that the advertisement was a racial assault and a form of hate speech.

He urged Blumstein to "send a clear message to your senior administrators that the Horowitz ad is not an example of hate speech."

A panel of professors will convene in Andrews Dining Hall Wednesday night for a public discussion of the controversy surrounding the advertisement. The professors will each speak about the publication of the advertisement and the ensuing controversy before audience members are permitted to ask questions.

The panel will include seven professors: Visiting Professor of English Tracy Breton, Associate Professor of American Civilization and Afro-American Studies Jim Campbell, Professor of Education Cynthia Garcia Coll, Director of the Afro-American Studies Program Lewis Gordon, Associate Professor of Judaic Studies David Jacobson, Professor of Political Science Jim Morone and Associate Professor of Political Science John Tomasi.

The topic of the forum will be "Understanding the Issues: Freedom of the Press, Community Values, Race and Civil Discourse."

The Brown Debating Union had originally scheduled a debate between members of the coalition and The Herald for the same night, but the event was called off when the coalition and administration members withdrew their support.

"I am extremely upset and even saddened at this refusal for a basic arena for argumentative discourse," said Sean Yom '03, president of the Brown Debating Union, in a statement. "The refusal to debate was a disservice to Brown."

Both The Herald and the coalition initially had agreed to participate. On Monday evening the coalition dropped out of the debate.

"The first public debate on this issue should not be one that is organized and facilitated by faculty members," he said. "By having a major forum an hour before our event, the administration has de facto cancelled the debate."

The faculty also considered having small facilitated forums after spring break to discuss the ad.

Herald editors met with members of the administration and the coalition Tuesday at University Hall in a meeting that lasted more than three and half hours.

Much of the meeting was spent planning for Wednesday night's faculty panel, participants said. Representatives from The Herald said they hoped the forum would be a starting point for resolution to the conflict.

Demonstrations against The Herald that began Monday continued on Tuesday, as members of the coalition posted and handed out yellow fliers throughout campus that asked, "Does the BDH serve you by profiting off of lies and racial hatred?"

In literature distributed throughout campus, the coalition said it does not regret its Friday theft of The Herald.

"Members of the coalition do not regret the necessary removal of the papers in protest and self defense," the flier said. "The Herald's decision to run the ad ... was a direct assault on communities of color and their allies at Brown.

"The coalition has never opposed free speech," the flier said.

In the flier the coalition called on The Herald to drop criminal charges against the students who took the paper on Friday, because pursuing charges would be "unwise, disappointing and entirely out of proportion," the flier said.

The Herald has not yet filed criminal charges against any members of the coalition, said Herald General Business Manager Nick Russo '03. The newspaper is prepared to do so if any more newspapers are taken, he said.

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