Isabelle Jung/Sun Graphics Editor

May 2, 2024

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Free Expression Has Limits

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Re: “Students Stage Pro-Palestine Encampment on the Arts Quad”

The right for all to speak freely is fundamental to the mission of a university. As alums and former participants in university governance who hail from different points on the political spectrum, we’re united in defending students’ rights to engage in speech that many find offensive. This includes vehement criticism of the policies of the US and Israeli governments, descriptions of Hamas’ terrorist activities and even challenges to the State of Israel’s legitimacy.  We have stood up for speech we vehemently disagree with and will do so in the future. 

But the current encampment in the Arts Quad is a clear violation of University policies. It is an act of civil disobedience and, like all perpetrators of civil disobedience, the students occupying the encampment deserve to face the consequences of their actions in the University judicial system.  The protesters demand for “amnesty” undercuts any claim of moral clarity — the key element of civil disobedience is the willingness to face the full consequences of one’s actions.

So long as Cornell and law enforcement apply time, place and manner regulations in a content-neutral way, the encampments are not protected by free speech principles.  We urge all on campus to take a step back and engage the issues with respect, grace and civility.

Eli Lehrer ’98, Former Arts College Representative, Student Assembly.

    Robert C. Platt ’73, Law ’76, Former Constituent Assembly and University Senate

  Prof. Randy O. Wayne, plant science, Former Faculty Senate and Chair of the UA Codes and Judicial Committee

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