PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – Brown University is looking into a rowdy protest that shut down an on-campus speech by New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and will appoint a committee to help determine if anyone should be disciplined, school President Christina Paxson said in a campus-wide letter Wednesday.
Kelly was scheduled to speak about his department’s controversial stop and frisk policy on Oct. 29, but as soon as he began his talk, students and members of the broader community in the audience began shouting about the policy and racism and refused to let him speak. It went on for about 30 minutes before administrators decided the talk could not continue and canceled it.
Paxson previously called the disruption an affront to the Ivy League university’s core values of dialogue and the free exchange of ideas. In Wednesday’s letter, she said that while she empathized with students who object to Kelly’s policy, she also understands the concerns of those who were upset they did not have the opportunity to hear Kelly speak and to ask him questions.
She said the committee will be made up of five faculty members and three students, and they will be asked to review what happened and identify “issues that may have contributed to the disruption.”
“Brown hosts controversial speakers on a regular basis. Clearly, something went awry in the planning and oversight of this particular lecture. There is a need to establish the simple facts of what happened and why, so that this kind of episode does not recur,” she wrote.
Paxson said the university’s standards of conduct will be upheld, including guidelines that say it is unacceptable to interrupt or halt a lecture.
Brown students have been disciplined in the past for disrupting lectures, including in 2008, when a student was suspended for throwing a cream pie at New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
A survey of undergraduate students released on Wednesday by campus newspaper The Brown Daily Herald found that 73 percent of respondents did not agree that protesters should have shut Kelly’s speech down.
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