Call for Signatures: Committee for the Defense of Freedom at Yale

As you may have seen, the protestors on campus have issued a series of demands. According to the Yale Daily News, President Peter Salovey has said his administration will “seriously” review the demands. We believe that if accepted, they would pose a grave threat to free speech at Yale.

It is for this reason that the Buckley Program endorses the below letter of the Committee for the Defense of Freedom at Yale. We hope you will join us in signing the letter. To add your name, click here to submit your information. Please consider forwarding this letter to anyone you know who is concerned about the future of higher education.

The Committee for the Defense of Freedom at Yale

Dear President Salovey:

We were pleased to read your message noting your support for free speech. Today we write to express concern over a series of recent student demands. Many of the demands violate the principles of the Woodward Report and the spirit of a truly liberal education.

For instance, some have called for a censure process for hate speech and so-called “bias reporting.” We believe such initiatives would hinder rather than advance the free, open, and thoughtful exchange of ideas on campus. Such a process would discourage students and professors from voicing unpopular opinions and deter organizations from engaging in provocative debates and discussions.

There is no “hate speech” exception to the Woodward Report or to the First Amendment of the Constitution. Speech panels that seek to punish, police, or preempt expression have no place at a university like Yale. Nor can such policies be implemented fairly. Who would determine what speech is acceptable and what is not, and which invited guests are appropriate and which are not? We respect the rights of students to protest in a manner that does not infringe upon the rights of other students to speak, to listen, and to learn. Speech panels, however, would suppress the free thought and expression that are the foundation of a true education.

There have also been “demands” on your administration to implement “mandatory diversity sensitivity trainings for all faculty, staff, and students” as well as distributional requirements for all undergraduates in ethnic studies. “Demands” made of our president, in any case, are inappropriate and offensive. These, especially, are a menace to the cause of liberal education because they are clearly driven by a particular political agenda devoted to conversion instead of intellectual exploration. Such trainings will force students into an environment where they are presumed to be “microaggressors” and where those who hold different opinions will automatically be delegitimized as racist and outside the bounds of reasoned discourse. Ethnic studies courses are already available to students who wish to explore such subjects on an optional basis and should not be compulsory. These demands will only serve to exacerbate the intellectual conformity of the Yale community. They reflect no interest in hearing the other side, but instead seek to push everyone into a single ideological echo chamber.

Finally, and perhaps most alarming of all, numerous students have called for the immediate removal of the Master and Associate Master of Silliman College. We implore you to stand up vigorously for Nicholas and Erika Christakis. In defending free expression, they have done something that should not be controversial in the least on a college campus. Their removal would signal a retreat from the principles of the university that you so eloquently embraced in your freshman address last year.

Over the past several days, we have heard some alumni and students insist that the issues on campus are not about free speech. We reject that position. When there are attempts to disrupt a conference on free speech of all topics – as there was at the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program’s conference on Friday, November 6th – free speech is clearly the issue. When students are spat on and called “traitors” and “racists” for attending a conference on free speech, our civil discourse is at risk. When protestors make demands that would curb the expression of students and faculty, the quality of liberal education is in danger.

President Salovey, your leadership on these issues is essential. Now is the time to lead.