Blogs > Cliopatria > Conflicting Messages at NYU

Apr 1, 2006 5:20 pm

Conflicting Messages at NYU

Last Thursday, NYU made the news after its administration denied permission to the campus Objectivist Club to show four of the Danish cartoons at a panel on free speech and the cartoon controversy. The administration's rationalization for its decision seems troubling at best. University spokesman John Brenkman maintained,"Realistically, one can have a discussion on smallpox without actually handing out the the live virus to the audience." [Displaying controversial political cartoons is the equivalent of infecting people?] He added that the administration sought a"balance between the serious concerns of one segment of our community, on the one hand, and NYU’s tradition of free speech and free exchange of ideas on the other." [If the campus Republicans hold a bash-Howard Dean rally with photos mocking Dean, must the administration take into account"the serious concerns" of campus Democrats that their party's leader not be mocked before deciding to authorize the event?]

Today, however, NYU's approach has moved from troubling to disingenous. In an email reprinted in Dartblog, Brenkman blames the event organizers themselves for the cartoons not being shown."On Wednesday afternoon, a few hours before the event, the student leadership of the club came to the University and indicated it had changed its mind: it would choose not to display the cartoons, and would like to be able to invite about 75 people to the event who were not members of the NYU community. The University agreed, but let’s be clear: the students made this choice, and they made it after the University had indicated to one and all that the event could go forward WITH the cartoons displayed." A reader of the Brenkman email would imagine that the first university administrators heard about non-NYU people attending the event was a few hours before.

Yet, as this email from NYU's director of student activities shows, all along the event had been planned as open to outsiders who pre-registered, and university officials were well aware of this fact. Then, three days before the event, the university intervened, informing participants that"this event is to be close [sic] to all non-NYU guests including any non-NYU guests who have already made a reservations with you." The club's organizers were told re"about 75 non-NYU people who had asked to attend . . . you’ll need to contact them and let them know that the event is no longer open to non-NYU guests so they should not plan on attending . . . This is not negotiable."

"This is not negotiable." And it's the organizers who are responsible for not showing the cartoons?

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More Comments:

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Presumably if Muslim students or administrators want to do it, it must be a brilliant idea.

David Haan - 4/3/2006

Whether real or not, this begs to be labelled "Sophist's Choice".

Adam Kotsko - 4/2/2006

Perhaps they have been watching the news and realize that displaying the cartoons could be the equivalent of yelling "FIRE" in a crowded auditorium.

Robert KC Johnson - 4/1/2006

It might indeed be a bad idea. But the university has said it's committed to freedom of thought regarding panels, not approving/disapproving them on the basis of whether they're dealing with bad ideas.

Jacob paul segal - 4/1/2006

If the objectivists want to do it it must be a bad idea.