Letters to the University of Pennsylvania community

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By Ted Ruger,

from The Daily Pennsylvanian,

As a law school we are unwavering advocates for free speech and open expression, and that includes vociferous condemnation of those who use violence or hatred to forward their aims or silence those who disagree with them.

These tragic events follow a few days after a controversial op-ed about relative cultural worth written by two tenured legal scholars, one of whom teaches at Penn Law School. Although uncoordinated and substantively distinct, the contemporaneous occurrence of these two events has generated widespread discussion both internally and externally about our core values as a university and a nation.

At Penn Law, one of these bedrock values is that every faculty member and student has the right to voice an opinion and to speak for herself or himself. The right to speak, crucial to academic freedom, is just that — a right to make one’s opinion heard. It is a secure platform, not a shield or sanctuary to duck from the predictable criticism that may follow from others exercising their own expressive rights.

Institutionally and collectively we must permit every student and faculty member to speak, but we need not remain silent or imply endorsement of all views. In law school, as in life, we may encounter divisive, even noxious, views. Learning about such views teaches us something about the complex world in which we live and work. It is up to each of us to determine where and how we engage, challenge and rebut views with which we strongly disagree. And so, while debate continues, it is important that I state my own personal view that as a scholar and educator I reject emphatically any claim that a single cultural tradition is better than all others.

More From The Daily Pennsylvanian:

By 33 Penn Law Faculty Members,


We categorically reject Wax’s claims.

We believe the ideal of equal opportunity to succeed in education is best achieved by a combination of academic freedom, open debate and a commitment by all participants to respect one another without bias or stereotype. To our students, we say the following: If your experience at Penn Law falls substantially short of this ideal, something has gone wrong, and we want to know about it.