February 10, 2003


To all members of the Emory community:

Everyone on this campus knows that questions of violence and war now dominate the consciousness of the nation. The possibility of bloodshed in Iraq, the Korean peninsula, Iran, Pakistan and India, as well as the continuing crisis between Israelis and Palestinians, have created anxieties and tensions that could damage the well-being of our campus. And so I write to you, seeking your help in dealing with issues of speech and fair debate that, if poorly understood, could harm us. We must not allow the tensions of which I speak to undermine our civility and our respect for each other.

We are not alone in knowing that we must preserve fair play and decency. In January of this year, the Association of American Universities, of which Emory is a member, issued a statement that describes the proper and honorable position of free speech on campus. Emory fully subscribes to this statement and I, as Emory’s president, endorse it wholeheartedly. In so doing, I join with university presidents throughout the nation. I urge you to read the key elements of the statement, which follow, and to devote yourselves to its substance and its spirit:

“For the university to fulfill its obligations to academic freedom and to intellectual development, it must provide a forum in which individuals and groups can advocate their views. It must assure an environment for civil discourse to take place free of violence and intimidation. The university must also protect the rights of all members of the campus community to pursue their reasons for being on campus: the work of learning, teaching, scholarship and research, uninterrupted by anyone.

“The university has certain responsibilities beyond these protections of free speech and an open environment for learning. The university should actively promote informed dialogue, analytical thought, and exemplary arguments. Without such critical thinking, debate often becomes superficial and unproductive, divisive and politicized. It is incumbent upon the university to offer the expertise and experience of its faculty and staff members to broad audiences on campus through fora such as teach-ins and seminars.

“While affording a public space for dissent and demonstrations, the university should announce that there are limits to allowable public protest, and in particular, that there are consequences for any of the following kinds of disruption: violence, intimidation, prevention of classes, lectures or laboratory work, takeover of buildings that interferes with the ability of students, faculty or staff to do their work, email fraud, and other distortions of legitimate campus communication. It is essential for the entire campus community and for visitors to the campus to learn that the provision of free speech and inquiry by the university carries with it the obligation to maintain a campus environment conducive to serious study and






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