In recent days, there has been a significant outpouring of concern by members of the Aggie community and beyond regarding an individual scheduled to speak on campus next week. Students, faculty, staff, former students and members of the community expressed their outrage over the speaker’s previously-expressed views and have roundly condemned everything for which he seems to stand.
I strongly agree with those sentiments. I find the views of the organizer – and the speaker he is apparently sponsoring – abhorrent and profoundly antithetical to everything I believe. In my judgment, those views simply have no place in civilized dialogue and conversation.
As emphasized in our November 23rd statement, no invitation by anyone on our campus was extended to the speaker nor to the private individual who rented meeting space in a room on campus available to the public. At the same time, as I articulated on the President’s page on September 27th regarding the essence of an academic enterprise such as ours – especially a state institution governed not only by our core academic principles but also by the U.S. Constitution – private citizens have a right to free speech on and off this campus. And while many have asked us in no uncertain terms to cancel the event, many others, including students, faculty, staff and former students (and even the editorial board of The Battalion, our student newspaper) acknowledge this right to free speech, a right enshrined in our Constitution from the very beginning and steeped in the blood of patriots who have served over the centuries to protect that right.
So let me be clear, barring a breach of contract and/or unresolvable safety concerns, we have no plans to prohibit the speaker from using the room he has rented. Freedom of speech is a First Amendment right and a core value of this university, no matter how odious the views may be.
Outrage and indignation are emotions understandably running high; I share these sentiments. At the same time, I am also truly heartened by the clear message that the Aggie community is sending in reaction to this intrusion – the firm resolve to speak up in opposition to these views, the resounding affirmation that they do not represent the Aggie values we espouse and to which we aspire, and the call to action to reject these views.
I deeply appreciate the fierce advocacy that this outpouring represents for all of our students and their learning environment and the call to action to exhibit our own freedom of expression, freedom that so many of us will exercise to express our disgust with the speaker’s reprehensible positions. Regardless of one’s viewpoint to either cancel this speaker or allow his rhetoric in the name of free speech, I sincerely thank each and every one of you who have weighed in for your passion for this great university and our students.
For my part, I will not be at the speech. Rather, I am pleased to report that the campus is planning its own gathering that same evening on December 6th from 6:00 – 9:00 PM at Kyle Field, which I plan to attend. The event, which is being called “Aggies United,” will be open to students, faculty, staff, and members of the Bryan/College Station community. The Aggies United event will be an opportunity for those who want to add their name to a large wall expressing their commitment to unity to do so.
We will announce entertainment, speakers and other details in the coming days and ask you to mark your calendars for December 6th from 6:00-9:00 PM at Kyle Field.
Afterwards, those of you who are able to join us can walk together to Academic Plaza for that tradition we hold dear – Silver Taps – held on the first Tuesday of each month at 10:30 PM.
Take heart in our university. Along with all of you, our commitment to core values is unwavering and we are strong!