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President Mandel defends free speech, sidesteps question about events at Columbia

In an interview with WAMC Northeast Public Radio, President Maud S. Mandel was asked about the protests at Columbia University and defended free speech:

I do believe that freedom of expression is an important part of what we seek to support on a college campus, and as long as we are not harassing individuals or calling for violence, then I think there should be a wide space for people to say and talk and debate and engage and learn from each other.


WAMC also asked about the mass arrests (without mentioning the violence of the protestors nor their harassment of Jews), President Mandel sidestepped the issue:


I wouldn't predetermine decisions I would make before any kind of events were to unfold on our own campus. Right now, we don't have any reason to even consider such an option. And I certainly hope we are never in such a circumstance.


To be fair to her, the protests at Williams have not come close to what we see going on other campuses. Her diplomatic sidestep makes sense. In a recent protest at Williams, students marched from the end of Spring Street, sticking to the sidewalk, to Hopkins Hall where they made a brief attempt to block access, then dispersed.


President Mandel is right not to predetermine the decisions she would make. And while we share her hope that Williams won't see what Columbia has seen, let us hope that should violent protests take place, she will act with less equivocation than has the President of Columbia.

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