This afternoon, President Paxson sent out a brief email with a long attachment that detailed the findings of the committee created in November to examine the protest and eventual cancellation of the Ray Kelly lecture last October. The committee, formally known as the “Committee on the Events of October 29, 2013,” is led by B. Anthony Bogues, professor of Africana Studies, and consists of five faculty members, two undergraduates, and one graduate student.
Paxson had two primary goals for the committee: first, to investigate the details of the event and the discussions leading up to it, and second to come “to make recommendations that will establish Brown as a leader in supporting an inclusive environment for members of our community while upholding our deep commitment to the free exchange of ideas.” Again, today’s attachment is only the report of the committee’s findings after gathering materials relating to the event, talking to event organizers, students in attendance, administrators, and activists (the completion of goal number one).
We at Blog understand if you had a tl;dr reaction to the attachment and are hoping to provide you with a roundup of what you may have missed:
1) Ray Kelly was invited in May 2013 as the speaker for the Krieger Memorial Lecture, described as “an annual lecture by a prominent individual who has made distinguished contributions to public service.” Kelly was not on the master list of potential speakers circulated by Professor Marion Orr, Director of the Taubman Center; he was suggested by the Krieger family in hopes of providing the campus with different viewpoints. Kelly was not offered any compensation with his invitation.
2) On Wednesday, October 23rd, a student emailed a Taubman staff member expressing interest in a meeting with other students and the Taubman administration about the decision to bring Kelly. On the 24th, around thirty students and at least one community member drafted a petition that asked that (1) the lecture be cancelled, (2) the honorarium for the lecture be donated to organizations working against racial profiling, and (3) that the Taubman Center be transparent in their process of speaker selection. The student received an email response to Wednesday’s message Friday morning, redirecting them to Professor Orr. That afternoon, the petition, with about 300 signatures, was delivered to the Taubman Center.
3) The day before Commissioner Kelly’s lecture, a meeting, suggested by Vice President Klawunn, with several university administrators, Professor Orr, the deputy chief of DPS and others took place, with the student who contacted Taubman in attendance for a portion. Before the student arrived, it was decided that it would not be possible to cancel the lecture, the first of the petition’s requests, and that the lecture would be simulcast in the lecture room next door to List Auditorium. The student brought the petition, now with about 500 signatures, and made clear that students would most likely continue with their protest.
4) The President’s cabinet met again that day to discuss the protest (and the reaction to the decision not to divest from coal). It was decided not to take down flyers with swastikas defacing Kelly, in an effort to protect free speech, and that Professor Orr would remain in charge of the lecture until VP Klawunn felt an individual should be escorted out by DPS. Klawunn suggested it be made clear to students that there Kelly was receiving no payment (rumors of a $10,000 fee were spreading). It’s not clear if this information reached protesters.
5) An anonymous email was sent to the Taubman Center by a “concerned student” the morning of the 29th, stating that students would gather at List at 3:00pm under the pretense of attending Commissioner Kelly’s lecture but in reality in order to stage a walk out. It was decided that List would remain locked until 3:30pm. Protestors gathered outside at about 3:15pm.
6) The lecture began with an eight minute introduction by Professor Orr, throughout which there was some audience commentary. Kelly was met with boos as soon as coming to the podium, with protestors then reading their collective statement, then chanting “no justice, no peace, no racist police.” About ten minutes after the start of the program, VP Klawunn asked that the audience hold commentary till the end, but after attempts to continue the lecture failed, she announced the cancellation of the lecture and asked everyone to exit the auditorium. Interviews after the fact revealed that the decision was based on the facts that (1) DPS would not be asked to approach any protestor as many non-Brown community members were present, and (2) some felt that the tension may have escalated to violence, though others disagreed.
The conclusion of the report is essentially that there’s a lot more work to be done and lessons to be learned. The report includes appendices of: the charge of the committee, the original invitation to Ray Kelly, the original press release for the lecture, and the original petition form.