President Bowen’s Response to the Chancellor’s Statement to the Board of Trustees

NEW PALTZ — I am shocked and dismayed that the Chancellor has chosen to ignore the findings and conclusions of his own Review Committee which found, based on a survey of practices at 23 other SUNY campuses, that:

The President’s decision to allow the conference to proceed was based on the time-honored tradition of free expression of controversial subjects within higher education. It is the view of The Review Committee, that, at such a late date, his judgment in not canceling the conference was correct, as distasteful as he anticipated some of the conference activity and content might become. He is not the first, nor will he be the last, President to face such a dilemma. It is as if the Chancellor has endorsed the narrow, one-sided perspective of the lone trustee who attended the women’s studies conference solely in order to denounce it. It is a sad day for academic freedom in public higher education in New York State and, indeed, nationally. When politics intrude in the affairs of the academy, truth is its first casualty.

The New Paltz faculty and administration recognize that what occurs on our campus may not always be well received by every member of the local or State community. We agree with the Chancellor’s Review Committee reminder that “future controversies” of this sort may be “inevitable,” and for that reason the faculty are planning a College-wide discussion this spring about the College’s role and responsibilities, as well as its rights, in mounting potentially controversial events.