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Wednesday, December 06, 2023

“The Undersigned Hereby Agrees to Act Sensibly“

Howard should find this story interesting. It’s about measures taken for a talk at Yale by a Palestinian journalist. Here’s the good stuff:

Each attendee was asked to sign a form acknowledging Yale’s Free Expression Policy and agreeing not to record the talk. Chatelle told the audience at the beginning of the event that the form was a “new precaution” put in place in light of recent violence against Palestinian students, citing the recent shooting of three Palestinian college students in Vermont

Yale’s Free Expression Policy stipulates, per the form, that students’ right to protest or express disagreement with a speaker is subject to three conditions. First, access to an event or facility may not be blocked; second, the event and the regular or essential operations of the university must not be disrupted and third, the safety of those attending the event and other members of the community may not be compromised.

“Should anyone choose to disrupt the event, you will be given the opportunity to stop, and if you do not, per Yale’s policy: ‘you will be subject to possible disciplinary sanctions, citation, and summons,’” the form read. 

Chatelle told the News that she and other event organizers were concerned that participants’ safety could be compromised if the talk was recorded and shared online. The organizers were also concerned that people would try to interrupt the event. 

“I think Ameera had a lot of very important things to say,” Chatelle said. “I didn’t want it to get disrupted by people who disagreed with the contents of the talk.”

I’m not sure what the form adds other than the obligation not to record. As the story notes, everything else is already university policy. The only relevant question is whether such a policy will be applied and enforced, hopefully consistently. If not, I suppose one could sign the form and then act as one liked, no-platforming at will and taking the easy bet that little by way of disciplinary consequences would occur. I’m guessing that the form was less meaningful in allowing for an invited speaker to speak than the fact that “representatives from the Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Public Affairs and Communications were present at the event…, as well as marshals, legal observers and at least one plainclothes police officer stationed outside.” A security apparatus always helps things go down smoothly.

All these things were coordinated between the university’s Assistant Vice President for University Life and the presumably pro-police student group Yalies4Palestine. I hope the university is equally willing to provide such support for any and all student groups, presumably with the same cost-sharing arrangements. Things might be overly tamped down, but a lot more interesting voices might be heard on campus, with “heard” being the operative word.

What I found especially interesting was the last quote. It’s a pleasure to see students reasoning their way toward an understanding of the value of heckler’s veto doctrine. They may find that rather than get there contract by contract, they should just insist that students honor the existing university policy all the time and that the university honor its disciplinary obligations with equal consistency. Everyone might find that it’s a pretty good arrangement.

Posted by Paul Horwitz on December 6, 2023 at 05:12 PM | Permalink


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