Statement of University of Massachusetts Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy

UMass Amherst

 

I have received a number of emails from members of our campus community expressing their profound dismay that Israeli historian Benny Morris has been invited to campus to discuss his work on various aspects of Middle East history. Those who have written to me point out that, despite his scholarly credentials, Morris has made a number of deeply offensive comments about the Palestinian people, which appeared in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and other publications over the years. While I remain firmly committed to the principles of free speech and academic freedom, I can say without hesitation that these comments are odious and loathsome and I condemn them.

We all agree that the very essence of a university is the free exchange of ideas and I will continue to defend our faculty’s academic freedom to invite controversial speakers to campus. However, I will not hesitate to speak to the faculty’s responsibility for contributing to a conducive educational climate as well. The responsibility on the part of the faculty is particularly great when dealing with highly divisive political issues. Clearly, recent events have given rise to a vigorous debate on campus, which I hope will pave the way for more inclusive ways to handle polarizing debates.  

Finally, I want to make clear that every one of our Palestinian students is a valued member of our campus community and is entitled to live and learn in an environment that is respectful, equitable and inclusive. And despite the challenging discussions some of us have been engaged in over the past few days, our campus commitment to inclusion for every member of our community remains steadfast.

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