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  April 30, 2001

Officials Plan Dialogue on
Race Relations, Free Speech

University officials are developing plans to include panel discussions and seminars on race relations and freedom of speech during next semester's events on the theme of human rights.

Officials decided several events targeting free speech and racism would open a dialogue to help alleviate tensions that surfaced April 19, when students took umbrage at an advertisement in The Daily Campus that was written and paid for by conservative David Horowitz. The full-page ad listed arguments suggesting that reparations should not be made to descendants of slaves.

Two days earlier, in a separate incident, racist and anti-semitic graffiti were discovered in a third-floor bathroom stall at the Edward V. Gant Complex. Police continue to investigate that incident.

In response to the graffiti, campus police enhanced security; and senior administrators, including President Philip Austin, Chancellor John Petersen, Vicky Triponey, vice chancellor for student affairs, Ron Taylor, vice provost for multicultural affairs, and Thomas Callahan, an assistant to president Austin, held a series of meetings with student groups regarding the graffiti and the ad.

Students also received voice and e-mail alerts regarding the threatening graffiti, and faculty and staff received a letter from Austin via e-mail.

Members of Mu Sigma Upsilon, a multicultural sorority, have scheduled a panel to discuss the issues, titled "Multiculturalism and Ethnic Pride: The Role of the Cultural Centers, Administration, and Students at UConn." The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, April 30, in the African American Cultural Center.

Austin condemned the graffiti, and urged the community not to lose sight of University-wide efforts to diversify its students, faculty and staff.

"The increasing diversity of the UConn community ... enriches the quality of life at the University and enhances the educational experience for all students," he said in a letter e-mailed to the University community.

"Increasing the number of faculty from diverse backgrounds is a high priority. Our curriculum, which is constantly under review, reflects inclusion as part of its commitment to academic excellence. Students, parents, and all Connecticut residents should know that this is a university that provides a secure, nurturing environment for all its members and responds forcefully to anything that threatens that environment."

Austin denounced the content of the Horowitz ad but also supported the right of The Daily Campus to run it.

"I find the tone of the Horowitz ad disturbing," he said. "But as a student-run newspaper, The Daily Campus has the right to make independent editorial judgments," he said.

"The free expression of ideas is a value worth preserving, even when the ideas presented are obnoxious or offensive, as long as they are not directly threatening. Political censorship of such statements is not appropriate for a university campus."

Richard Veilleux

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