Kronman: Yale is distinct from its Press

Speakers representing the widest imaginable range of points of view are routinely invited to the Yale campus by departments, student groups and individual members of the faculty. Sometimes a speaker will be thought objectionable by a segment of our community. Within very wide limits, however, Yale is committed to the principle of free expression, painful as that commitment sometimes is.

The ideals underlying Yale’s commitment to free expression are set out in the Woodward Report of 1975. These ideals continue to be a guide and inspiration for us. Three things make it possible for Yale to meet their very considerable demands. The first is a belief, widely shared within the Yale community, that free expression is a great engine of enlightenment and discovery, hard as its effects on particular members of the community may sometimes be. This belief is itself one of the pillars of our sense of community. The second is an old and deeply entrenched culture of civility that softens the sharpest antagonisms and helps to heal the deepest wounds that uninhibited free speech can sometimes cause. And the third is our confidence that we can provide for the peace and safety of the Yale campus, a geographically defined space with clear borders.

None of these same considerations apply, in a straightforward way, to the work of Yale University Press. To begin with, the Press exercises tight editorial control over the books it publishes — in contrast to the University, which does not seek to edit the intellectual life of the Yale community. The mission of the Press is to disseminate the fruits of scholarship, and in doing so it makes, and must make, countless judgments regarding which books to publish, in what format and the like. Second, the books published by the Press circulate in the world at large, where no common and long-established traditions of civility comparable to the ones that characterize the internal life of the Yale community exist. Third, and most obviously, neither the Press nor Yale generally has the ability to assure the peace and safety of every forum in which its books are read and discussed, around the world.

When these distinctions are kept in mind, it is not surprising that Yale Press’ decision not to publish the Danish cartoons should be followed, in short order, by a visit of one of the cartoonists to the Yale campus. In fact, these events bring out in a vivid way the fundamental difference between the work and ethos of the University, on the one hand, and that of the Press on the other — related but different institutions with different missions and different responsibilities.

Anthony Kronman is Sterling Professor of Law at the Law School and a member of the Board of Governors of the Yale University Press.

Comments

  • no name

    This is a frustrating piece given the fact that one expects more from Kronman. While it is true that he succeeds in defining the separate but related nature of Yale and the University Press, he does not clarify what the consequences are of their difference. So what if they are ultimately different? An answer to this question would have made the real difference.

  • yalemom

    Well said!

  • ’98

    An embarrassing rationalization attempt, hoping to create the appearance of a distinction where there is none.

    Whether it is Yale the university, or Yale the press, the policy decisions – major and even minor on occasion – are, in the end, made by one man alone – President Richard Levin.

  • anonymous

    It is certainly true that there is a difference between Yale and Yale UP. The problem, however, is not that Yale UP is making editorial decisions – that’s normal and expected. The problem is that this particular decision is made not in the name of some compelling intellectual reasons, but out of sheer cowardice.
    But I will be careful in the future. Instead of referring to ‘Yale’s cowardice’ i will speak of the cowardice of Yale UP and those who run it.

  • Y’11

    it’s funny that the press is also changing its logo to “bring Yale and the press closer together”

  • ’98

    Well, Mr. Anonymous, if all the inside reports are true, the “cowardice” of the YP was, in this case, the “cowardice” of Yale, because the act of craven self-censorship was essentially forced upon it by President Levin and his minions.

  • Yale ’10

    You are blatantly an ugly racist, Anthony Kronman. Shame on you. if an anti-semitic foreign redneck drew a cartoon of Moses with fistfuls of money labeled greedy shylock, and said Madoff provoked him, should he be invited as an honored guest, brought in a limo to host a master’s tea escorted by 40 police? Should we tell all the Jewish students to learn to entertain views “thought objectionable” by them because free speech is valuable? yeah, that’s what I thought. Your problem is that bigotry against Muslims somehow doesn’t count the same way bigotry against other races and religions does. Because inside you’re just bigoted yourself against Muslims.

  • yale 09

    Yale/yalie ’10:
    again, why did you jump to attack Jews? How does this article make Kronman an ugly racist? Your comparison is ridiculous, and the points, valid ones, that you might make in this debate are lost in your vitriolic anti-semitic tirade.