Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Free Speech (or Lack Thereof) at Bucknell

As a proud Bucknell alum, it saddens me greatly to see free expression not valued on campus. In two separate incidences this spring, the Bucknell administration shut down two political events, seemingly because they were too controversial for their liking.

I put out this statement on behalf of the Alliance for a Better Bucknell last night:

Paging President Mitchell

In recent years, Bucknell has been no stranger to free-speech controversies. In fact, several of our board members were part of the successful effort--which included students, faculty, and alumni from across the ideological spectrum--to repeal Bucknell's former speech code, which had been used to silence "politically incorrect" student speech. After that, we thought our beloved alma mater had turned the page, especially given President Brian Mitchell's repeated statements and actions in favor of a vigorous exchange of ideas.

Now, we are deeply saddened to read that the "bad old days" seem to have returned. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a respected civil-liberties group in Philadelphia, has issued a series of communiqu├ęs documenting administrative censorship of the Bucknell Conservatives Club--whose members had tried to state their views regarding fiscal policy and affirmative action. It is troubling that these events ever happened, and even more so that the administration had the chance to resolve this privately and did not

So far, no one has heard a word from President Mitchell. His subordinates were responsible for the actions taken against the conservative students and issuing the university's lone (and very puzzling) statement. We need him to speak up, personally, to do what's right and to protect the value of a Bucknell degree--and we are hopeful he will do so.

ABB calls upon President Mitchell, in the strongest possible terms, to immediately condemn the recent censorship and proclaim publicly that no one will ever be treated this way again at Bucknell for expressing social or political views. This issue is not about conservatives or liberals; it is about one of the fundamental tenets of a university. The expressive rights of Bucknell students (as well as faculty) must be respected.

In pursuit of this most important goal, we urge like-minded alumni and friends of the University to contact the president--politely but purposefully--at brian.mitchell[at]bucknell.edu. And do loop us in, via info[at]betterbucknell.org, so we know how many folks have raised their voices in support of free speech.

--Allison Kasic '05

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