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Open letter on Tolerance and Free Speech within a University Setting.
From Kristen Renwick Monroe, Director of the UCI Interdisciplinary
Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (CEM)
David Easton, Philip Nickel, Mark P. Petracca, Roxane Cohen Silver,
Jerome Tobis, individual members of the Executive Board of the CEM.

 
We understand that student groups are presenting events this week entitled
"Holocaust in the Holy Land" and "Israel: The Fourth Reich."  As individual
UCI faculty members concerned with ethics, and without presuming to represent
any particular group or the university itself, we wish to make two points.
 
(1) We strongly support free speech for all groups, including those expressing
opinions with which we disagree or find abhorrent. Free speech is essential to
both a democracy and the intellectual life of a university. The speech planned
as part of the above-described events is legally protected speech.
When one disagrees with such speech, the best response is not censorship but
"counter-speech".
 
(2) However, at least as advertised, the events scheduled this week involve a
separate but closely related and important issue that should be addressed as well.
We recognize that as a public university, UCI is legally obligated to provide
free, open, public space for any group wishing to exercise their First Amendment
freedoms. We also recognize that doing so does not in any way mean the university
intends to confer a sense of institutional legitimacy to that event, simply by
providing the public forum for the event. But because the public may not be aware
of this legal requirement, the public perception may be that UCI is legitimizing
an event that, in this case, includes inflammatory and inappropriate language.
Thus, it is imperative that faculty speak out to note their condemnation of the
use of such provocative, inflammatory language tinged with hate, whatever the
source. To our minds, referring to Israel as "the Fourth Reich" and implying
that Israeli policies are analogous to the Holocaust certainly falls into that
unfortunate category and we strongly deplore the use of the terminology, both as
inaccurate and unnecessarily confrontational and offensive.
 
There are many units on campus, including the UCI Interdisciplinary Center for
the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality, that sponsor events that provide
free and open, but responsible discussion of controversial issues. We encourage
students and faculty to work with these units to address the difficult situation
in the Middle East in a more reasoned and less inflammatory manner.
 

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