Committee Appointed to Review University Policy on Controversial Speakers
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Committee Appointed to Review University Policy on Controversial Speakers

September 14, 2005

Dear Members of the Campus Community:

I am writing to announce the appointment of a committee to review our university policy on controversial speakers. This committee will be launched this week with William Brown, professor of biology, serving as chair. The committee includes faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, and a member of the community who is an alumnus.

As a campus community, we are committed to open engagement, even to the extent of allowing offensive or troubling speech. At the same time, we have a tradition of personal respect and decency that can be tested by such unrestricted discourse. Moreover, we must abide by the law and university standards with respect to harassment, intimidation and related issues. This is not a tension unique to Carnegie Mellon; indeed, there have been many well-publicized controversies surrounding speakers on campuses across the country. In our case, there were three speakers this past semester that caused considerable concern both on campus and in the local community, with widely divergent perspectives on whether the lectures should have taken place, how they were conducted, and the impact of their being held on the campus.

While the committee will focus on our controversial speakers policy, it will do so in the context of our policy on free speech and assembly and the Carnegie Mellon Code. Each goes to the purpose of this community, the prerogative extended to our students, faculty and staff and those they would bring to campus, and to our core respect for civility and decency.

I have asked the committee to provide a preliminary report by the end of the semester. In doing its work, the committee will reach out to engage the broad range of perspectives on these issues. It is my hope that many of you will take part in the open campus forums planned by this committee, and that you will ensure that your good counsel informs this important policy. I am confident that the result of this process will underscore our shared commitment to a community where the free and open exchange of ideas is deeply rooted in civil intellectual discourse.

My thanks to you, in advance, for participating in this process, and to the committee members for their willingness to take on this important task.


Jared L. Cohon

Committee Members

  • Omer Akin, Professor, Architecture
  • Xue Bai, Doctoral Student, Heinz
  • William Brown, Professor, Biology
  • Nicolette Louissaint, 4th Year, C.I.T.
  • Daniel Gilman, Class of '04 & City Council Staff Member
  • James Mercolini, Assistant General Counsel
  • Michael Murphy, Associate Vice President
  • Delia Popescu, Doctoral Student, Chemistry
  • Edward Rubin, Professor, EPP
  • Scott Sandage, Associate Professor, History
  • Nicholas Scocozzo, 4th Year, C.I.T.
  • Susanne Slavick, Professor & Head, School of Art
  • Barbara Smith, Assistant Vice President, Human Resources

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