Letter from Penn State President Graham B. Spanier to FIRE, October 28, 2001 | The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

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Letter from Penn State President Graham B. Spanier to FIRE, 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.


Graham Spanier