We are writing as IU’s English Graduate Solidarity Coalition in response to Lauren Robel’s April 17th Op-Ed for the Indiana Daily Student, published roughly six days after the April 11th Rally Against Charles Murray.
To clarify the open letter that was circulated and sent to Provost Robel, and which Robel references in her response: the goals of the letter was less to disinvite Murray than to question the decision to invite him in the first place and to voice criticism of the secretive way in which his visit was arranged and his talk formatted.
As the organizers of the rally, we asserted our own right to free speech. While the talk went ahead as scheduled, we protestors stood outside with countless other groups to denounce his views and to assert our own right to protest, while requesting greater transparency from the University. It became apparent, as the night went on, that the event was not in fact a dialogue, but was rather a monologue with pre-selected Q&A. It was not a debate or a panel, and was not conducive to the dialogue that the university espouses.
As stated in the letter and in the rally, “we respect the right of Charles Murray’s sponsors to extend to him an invitation to speak at Indiana University.”
At the same time, it is our right as students to ask for more transparency from the University, and to protest Murray’s views. We posed the following questions to Provost Robel through email, but are restating them here for the campus community in the interests of greater accountability and transparency:
Considering the extensive security surrounding the event, how does the University justify the amount of spending on private security, IU state police, BPD, and IUPD for the event? Especially for the overtime for officers who stayed beyond the promised time?
Along the same lines, how does the University justify the spending for the organization of the event, which was poorly attended and heavily criticized, and paused operations for a building which hundreds of students needed access to?
How does the University explain the withholding of tickets and refusal to open the event to the community?
How does the University justify the lack of a free question and answer in light of the “values of free speech and free inquiry that define what it means to be a university”?
How does the University justify preventing protesters from entering the building which their tuition pays for and which they reserve the right to enter and use? In particular, how is this justified after the talk ended and police refused to allow students access until the next day?
How does the University account for the police pushing and shoving protesters, as footage from the event shows?
Overall, how does the University justify putting the safety of Charles Murray over the safety and rights of its students, and will the University continue to pursue these ventures and spend money protecting dubious scholarship instead of its students?
It’s a testament to the our dissatisfaction with the University’s handling of the event that so many diverse groups with so many different causes united to protest. Even as we express our disappointment with the University’s handling of the event, we are proud of our community.
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