On Monday, Feb. 27, a lecture sponsored by the Chai Life Club of UC Davis, Chabad of Davis and the organization StandWithUs, entitled “Israeli Soldiers Speak Out,” was disrupted by hecklers. The organizers of the lecture had requested assistance from the Aggie Host Program a few hours before the event and several police officers were on hand along with Aggie Host personnel and a staff member from Student Affairs.
The campus’ efforts to manage these situations have been guided by an effort to be proactive and encourage respectful dialogue and discussion in an attempt to resolve the issues whenever possible. In this instance, the most disruptive heckler was persuaded to leave voluntarily, and this individual was barred from re-entering the venue until the event was concluded. The event was able to continue but the question-and-answer session was limited. UC Davis police officers escorted the speakers from the venue when the event ended to ensure their personal safety. This incident is currently under review to determine what appropriate follow-up action(s) should apply.
The pursuit of knowledge demands the free exchange of ideas and open expression of opinions and findings, including those that some may find disturbing or offensive in content, tone or timing. We recognize that all parties share the right to free expression. However, discussions with the complexity and depth appropriate to a university community proceed best when speakers can use the time allotted them to present their arguments without interruption and those who disagree can speak either in turn or by posing their challenges in an organized question period at the end. This is particularly true where a group has reserved a venue for presentation of an event that is presented to a relatively captive audience which has attended to hear the event as presented.
We encourage those who feel they have not had sufficient time to express their opinions to organize a follow-up event. Serious exchange of ideas and debate is prevented when individuals shout down a speaker and dialogue cannot take place. The university finds such behavior deeply disturbing and inconsistent with the aspirations of our Principles of Community. We ask all members of our campus community, as well as visitors, to refrain from such behavior, to discourage it in others, and to reaffirm our commitment to freedom of expression within the highest standards of civility and respect for all.
As we move forward into the spring quarter, there will be many opportunities for members of our campus community to participate in forums, lectures and demonstrations that deal with important social, political and educational issues of today. We are available to assist student organizations and campus constituent groups in planning activities in a manner consistent with efforts to promote a campus climate that enables all members of our campus community to practice their First Amendment rights, and do so within the bounds of our university policies and the Principles of Community.
Associate Vice Chancellor
Associate Executive Vice Chancellor
Campus Community Relations