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News & Media

APLU Statement on Freedom of Speech & Violent Protests at the University of California, Berkeley

February 2, 2017

Washington, DC – Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) President Peter McPherson today released the following statement regarding freedom of speech and the violent protests of a speaker last night on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley.

“APLU stands with the University of California, Berkeley in unequivocally condemning the violence that erupted on campus last night. There is never an excuse for those expressing deeply held disagreements to resort to violence, period. Those who perpetrated these acts of violence should be pursued and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

“Despite the strong opposition of many on campus, UC Berkeley reaffirmed its longstanding commitment to free speech by taking many steps to accommodate and host an extremely controversial speaker who was invited as a guest of an authorized student group.  The university sought to allow this speaker to freely express his beliefs even though the hateful views he regularly espouses run contrary to the university’s own values of diversity and inclusiveness.  UC Berkeley also permitted others who were opposed to the speaker visiting campus to peacefully protest his presence.  

“Unfortunately, a group of individuals – many of whom were apparently from outside the campus community – began to commit dangerous acts of violence.  Ultimately, public safety professionals determined that these violent protesters presented an imminent threat – not just to the visiting speaker, but to the campus community and public at large.

“Free speech is the lifeblood of our democracy. Any attempt to quash – or indeed, chill – the free exchange of ideas is an affront to our shared values as Americans. The First Amendment is unambiguous in its protection of free speech. Our Founding Fathers recognized that we needed to codify these protections not for speech that is popular, but for that which is not.”

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