President Michael H. Schill had planned to deliver his 2017 state of the university address to faculty, staff, students and volunteers, but the event was interrupted by a small group of protesters.
Ultimately, the event was canceled and the remarks went undelivered. Instead, a recorded version of his speech is available online.
“I strongly value free speech and academic freedom,” Schill wrote in a message to campus. “I had already planned to talk about these issues prior to today’s happenings, because freedom of expression is a pressing issue and I feel strongly about our need to foster robust debate and discussion. It is essential to our mission as a university. I respect protesters’ rights to share their views, but I do not agree in shutting down another person’s right to speak.
“The vast majority of our students understand the value of free speech,” he said. “Indeed, they understand that the reason many of the protesters today are at our institution is because of the courageous speech of others throughout the years. They also understand that the right way to express their views is not to stop others from expressing their views. I am saddened that the protesters have displayed a disdain for one of the core values of our academy, our democracy and our history.”
Schill used the address to announce a series of public talks focused on free speech and academic freedom that will be coordinated by Marcilynn Burke, dean of the School of Law, and Juan-Carlos Molleda, Edwin L. Artzt Dean of the School of Journalism and Communication.
“Each of our schools and colleges will participate and a wide variety of voices, interests and views will be represented,” Schill said. “It is only through more speech and robust debate that we will heal the differences in our society, not by shouting down those who seek to speak.”