Letter from Penn State President Graham B. Spanier to FIRE, October 28, 2001
October 28, 2001
October 28, 2001
Alan Charles Kors
Foundation for Individual
Rights in Education, Inc.
437 Chestnut Street, Suite 200
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Dear Mr. Kors:
Thank you for writing to express your concerns related to First Amendment rights at Pennsylvania State University. As you well know, as a public university we cherish our role as a marketplace of ideas and have a long-standing tradition of academic freedom and protection of First Amendment rights.
I've reviewed the email exchange in question, and it did not appear to me that it was an attack on free speech for Vice Provost Secor to have passed on to Professor Simpson the concerns of students in response to Professor Simpson's home page. In a time of heightened emotions and nationalism, some of our students have expressed fear of retaliation and discrimination based on their race, ethnicity, religion or country of origin. Some of the students in Mr. Simpson's class apparently were not comfortable expressing directly to their professor their unease about statements that they felt encouraged the suffering and deaths of innocent peoples from Moslem countries.
Vice Provost Secor felt, and I concur, that it was on the side of responsibility to both the students and to Professor Simpson to forward him the students' concerns. At the same time, Vice Provost Secor left any resulting action up to Professor Simpson. He did not make any recommendations concerning removing or changing his statement, and when Professor Simpson replied that there would be no change, Vice Provost Secor took no further action. Interestingly, an Associated Press story last week that talked about cases in universities where the administration did apply sanctions in similar cases implied, in closing with the Penn State response, that our University was the one most sensitive to issues of free speech, quoting Vice Provost Secor "'There was no action, there was no reprimand,' Secor said. 'We have to be very careful about protecting the rights of free speech, and we do.'"
Rest assured that Mr. Simpson's right to express his views on the web are not in question. He has not been asked to remove or alter any of the information that has been posted to date, and there have been and will be no attempts to suppress his views. Against, thank you for sharing your concerns. As always, the protection of free speech and academic freedom remain priorities at Penn State.