Nov. 21, 2002
Vol. 22 No. 5

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    Provost, President make clear University’s stance on civil discourse, debate

    Both Provost Richard Saller and President Randel have in recent months addressed the far-reaching influence of current tensions in the Middle East, and specifically, how these tensions may affect members of the University community.

    One unfortunate effect of these tensions is that several Chicago professors have been subjected to e-mail harassment and, in one case, e-mail identity theft, according to a statement issued by Saller and posted on the University’s Web site ( http://www.alumni.uchicago.edu/gateway/saller-111102.html).

    The FBI is investigating the case of e-mail identity theft in which Rashid Khalidi, Professor in History and Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, was the target. An individual impersonated Khalidi’s e-mail identity to send hate e-mail. This incident of e-mail forgery is not only a clear violation of University policy, but also is a federal crime. “If anyone in the University community has received such messages, it is important to know that they are forgeries and illegal under federal law,” Saller wrote.

    Saller first addressed the University’s policy on free speech and civil discourse in a statement posted on the University’s Web site in September. That policy is founded on the Kalven Report on the University’s Role in Political and Social Action ( http://www.uchicago.edu/docs/policies/provostoffice/kalverpt.pdf).

    “The essence of the policy is that the University administration aims to create an arena for free exchange of ideas, but not to espouse, direct or restrain those ideas,” wrote Saller. The complete text of this earlier statement may be read on the University’s Web site at: http://www.alumni.uchicago.edu/gateway/kalven-report.html.

    Randel also has officially commented on the University’s free speech policy in his “From the President” column that was published in the October issue of the Alumni Association’s Chicago Magazine and in the Oct. 24 issue of the Chronicle, which excerpted his remarks made to members of the Council of the University Senate.

    In his address to the Council, Randel stated that though the University must always guard against any violence toward individuals, it must guard against more than violence of a physical nature. “We are a community, and this entails a decent respect for one another and even a degree of trust. No set of rules or codes of behavior can ever fully capture everything that respect and trust require. Maintaining this community is hard work, and each of us must assume some personal responsibility for it. In a world of increasing tensions and heated differences, we will sometimes be accused of bias or even rank prejudice for tolerating a wide spectrum of views. But the response to views that one finds distasteful is not in the first instance to attempt to suppress them but instead to answer them with the force of argument.”