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Brown University President Orders Review of Controversial Lecture



By Dan Shewan
Posted November 11, 2013 11:00 AM

Brown University president orders review of controversial lecture.
Brown University president orders review of controversial lecture.

Few topics are as divisive as those relating to race. Unfortunately for Christina Paxson, president of Brown University, this was illustrated all too well last month when a discussion by Ray Kelly, commissioner of the New York Police Department, descended into chaos. According to Inside Higher Ed, Paxson has called for a broad review into the incident.

Mutual Outrage

Kelly was scheduled to discuss the NYPD's controversial "stop-and-frisk" program at Brown last month. Although Kelly attempted to deliver his lecture, which hundreds of bachelor's degree seekers attended, he was unable to begin, as students shouted down the police commissioner before he had the chance to speak. Inside Higher Ed reports that many students see the NYPD's stop-and-frisk" program as racist, which caused much of the furor, but also noted that some students were equally outraged that Kelly was denied the opportunity to deliver his lecture at all.

In light of the incident, Paxson announced that she plans to form an official committee that would look into the matter and review whether the behavior of certain students was acceptable.

"I strongly believe that Brown must be a place that supports the free exchange of ideas, even if it means making space for points of view that are controversial or deeply upsetting," Paxson said in a press release. "Making an exception to the principle of open expression jeopardizes the right of every person on this campus to speak freely and engage in open discussion."

Deeply Controversial

Although the findings of Paxson's committee will not be known for some time, Kelly's stop-and-frisk policy has proven one of the most controversial crime prevention tactics ever utilized by the NYPD.

According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, the stop-and-frisk policy has yet to yield any discernible reduction in crime, despite assertions from several city officials including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly. Although law enforcement personnel and City Hall representatives in New York City are often quick to point out that the murder rate has fallen dramatically in the Big Apple during the past 10 years, the NYCLU claims there is no evidence to support the notion that the stop-and-frisk policy is in any way responsible for this reduction, and points out that similar declines in violent crime have been observed in several other major U.S. cities, none of which have similar crime prevention tactics. 

In addition, data from the NYCLU suggests that just 11% of stops reported during 2011 were based on actual crime reports, with the remainder being conducted at random. The NYCLU claims that black, Hispanic and Latino individuals have been disproportionately targeted by NYPD officers as part of the stop-and-frisk program.

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