University backs down, will allow 9/11 memorial as planned


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This is a victory: Southern Methodist University (SMU) has backed down from a decision to shift its annual 9/11 memorial to a remote place on campus so that it might not offend some students.

[In its original decision] the campus administration cited a new “lawn display” policy which, it claimed, tries to balance “the right of all members of the SMU community to express their opinions” and the right to “avoid messages that are triggering, harmful, or harassing.”

A bipartisan coalition of students blasted the policy, including the SMU College Democrats whose co-vice president said “If expression is banned from a part of this campus, that is detrimental to the education of the students.” Fox News reports SMU donors, alumni and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott joined the criticism, as well.

The school changed its mind late Wednesday. “I thank the students from across campus who came together in the spirit of mutual respect and civil discourse to achieve this outcome,” SMU President R. Gerald Turner said in a prepared statement. “Throughout these discussions, students have expressed their commitment to freedom of expression – a value the University shares.”

Conservatives on campus expressed guarded caution, noting that though the university has backed down here, it has also not yet revised its new more restrictive speech policies.

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5 comments

  • wodun

    The university may have backed down and the college Democrats may have spoken in support but the display still has a large chance of being vandalized.

  • Cotour

    No matter what you may or may not believe about 9 11 surely it can be justified to honor the lives of the entirely innocent first hand victims of the horrific event and not “trigger” the sensitivities of “the children”. These are tomorrows leaders? Some of them are anyway.

    Here at another school the students associate 9 11 with the deaths of 1.45 million innocent Iraqi’s. So instead of tearing up the display honoring the innocent American victims of 9 11 and others from all over the world why not find a positive way to honor in some way the innocent Iraqi’s? Why not plant 1.45 million Iraqi flags or some other symbolic gesture to honor them along with the other victims? (If that’s what you truly believe)

    https://www.thecollegefix.com/post/28973/

  • Wow. My alma mater made it onto your website. I wish it were for less embarrassing reasons. Love your work, Robert, and love listening to you on JBS and Coast to Coast. Below is a letter sent out from the President of SMU, Gerald Turner explaining in a bit more detail what went on.

    August 10, 2017

    Dear SMU community members,

    I’m pleased to share with you that SMU and student leaders reached an agreement yesterday to continue to have lawn displays, including the annual 9/11 memorial, on the Dallas Hall Lawn.

    I thank the students who met with University officials to express their concerns about our initial decision to relocate the displays. In coming together, students representing a range of organizations engaged in discussions with administrators and each other to find common ground, exemplifying an effective way to resolve issues. Throughout the process, they demonstrated their commitment to the free exchange of ideas and civil discourse – a commitment that SMU as an institution of higher learning shares.

    The discussions led us to an agreement that will better serve the needs of all campus community members in our shared use of the Dallas Hall Lawn. The lawn is a special place where campus community members gather for events and outdoor classes, and to study, relax and enjoy the beauty of our campus. When other University officials and I initially were considering a change in location for all lawn displays, our goal was to help preserve this open space. At the same time, we value a central, dedicated space where student organizations and University departments can express themselves through displays.

    The students’ proposal strikes that balance. The lawn’s north side will continue to serve as a site for one-day displays, while displays up to three days will take place south of the fountain. At any one time, either the northern or southern section will be open for other uses.

    Going forward, the University intends to review and amend Student Activities procedures and University policy regarding lawn displays. This review process will be undertaken in consultation with the student government and student community, including student organizations.

    Regarding our initial plan to relocate all lawn displays to Morrison-McGinnis Park, I want to emphasize that no student, student organization, faculty member, outside group or any one else sparked that decision. In an error we deeply regret, the Student Activities guidance regarding displays was posted online July 17 without proper review. It contained language that was not in line with University policy and went far beyond the content-neutral guidance it was intended to provide. To be clear, the decision to relocate all displays was not based on this erroneous language.

    Young Americans for Freedom was the first student organization to submit a request under this guidance on July 22, and their request for the annual 9/11 memorial was approved July 26. It would never have been denied. We thank the students for bringing this language to our attention.

    My hope is that everyone reading this will have a better understanding of the events of the past week. Next month, we will join students and the broader SMU community on the Dallas Hall Lawn in honoring the memory of those lost on 9/11.

    Sincerely,

    R. Gerald Turner
    President

  • H. Hunter: Thank you for the kind words about my work. I appreciate them.

    As for Turner’s letter, I am not so forgiving. I have seen these mealy-mouthed statements too many times before. To me, the bottom line is what this university did automatically, without thinking, which was to try to find a way it could squelch free speech and dissent so that some people who disagreed might not have to be confronted with opinions they disagreed with. For a university to do this is quite disgusting, and suggests that there is a lot of rot in this intellectual atmosphere.

  • I agree. I’ve watched the university follow this trajectory for more than a decade.

    Van Jones will be coming to speak at the law school on the 18th. But I’ll give them some credit. I got to see Antonin Scalia there back around 2012.

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