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Statement by President Philip E. Austin, April 20, 2001

I know I speak for the entire University of Connecticut community in condemning the threatening racist and anti-Semitic graffiti that was found in the restroom of one of our academic buildings this week. As I have said repeatedly, a great university must serve as the forum for the civil and safe exchange of ideas-and exchange that we encourage in the classroom, the library, in the residence halls, and across campus. Vile language carved into restroom walls with the objective of frightening members of any group does not qualify as free speech by any stretch of the term. It deserves the contempt of students, faculty, and administrators alike.

As Chancellor Petersen has indicated, the University is taking strong measures to deal with this incident. An investigation is underway, and University Police have supplemented their presence on campus. Connecticut State Police have on-campus patrols today and have increased their presence in the general campus area. The FBI is aware of the graffiti.

Seriously as I take this matter, I do not want to let it distract us from our continuing effort to celebrate the increasing diversity of the UConn community. Each fall more and more students from underrepresented groups enroll at Storrs and the regional campuses, enriching the quality of life at the University and enhancing the educational experience for all students. Increasing the number of faculty from diverse backgrounds is a high priority. Our curriculum, which is constantly under review, reflects inclusion as part of its commitment to academic excellence. Students, parents, and all Connecticut residents should know that this is a University that provides a secure, nurturing environment for all its members and responds forcefully to anything that threatens that environment.

In the past day or so, the outside media have suggested a connection between the graffiti incident and the decision by The Daily Campus to run a full-page ad by author David Horowitz attacking the concept of reparations for slavery. I find the tone of the Horowitz ad disturbing. But as a student-run newspaper, The Daily Campus has the right to make independent editorial judgments. The University's administration is frequently the target of Daily Campus criticism and I appreciate the feelings of those who disagree with what they see in the paper. Nevertheless, the free expression of ideas is a value worth preserving even when the ideas presented are obnoxious or offensive, as long as they are not directly threatening. Political censorship of such statements is not appropriate for a University campus.

The best way to combat misleading arguments is to let people who hold opposing points of view rebut those arguments. I was gratified that in the same edition that ran the Horowitz ad The Daily Campus presented a thoughtful column attacking many of the ad's premises, and I was also heartened to see many letters to the editor taking the same position today. I urge The Daily Campus to continue to provide a forum for everyone who wants to be heard.

April 2001 Releases
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