Dear Dr. Jackson,
I’m writing to express my distress and outrage at Rensselaer’s shutting down of Wafaa Bilal’s exhibition earlier this month. The decision represents a betrayal of the university’s role in a democratic society to promote spirited discussion of difficult issues and to protect controversial speech and ideas. Pulling an academic guest out of the classroom and subjecting him to a half hour of questioning like a common criminal is particularly unconscionable. Bowing to pressure from the most conservative, even reactionary members of the campus community represents a failure of leadership of the highest order.
I understand that Rensselaer has been trying to position itself as a comprehensive university and evolve beyond its reputation as an engineering school with historic ties to the military. The decision to shut down Bilal’s exhibition puts to lie RPI’s commitment to a comprehensive, liberal education and will haunt the university for years to come.