September 8th, 2009 | Uncategorized

Alums submit letter criticizing Yale Press

The Yale Committee for a Free Press, a group of alumni who are critical of Yale’s decision to remove caricatures of Muhammad from an upcoming book about the 2005 Danish cartoon controversy, has officially released its letter to the editor of the Yale Alumni Magazine. The letter, sent by e-mail on Friday, carries the signatures of 25 Elis, including John Bolton ’70 LAW ’74, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and David Frum ’82 GRD ’82, the former speechwriter for President George W. Bush ’68.

It is clear the debate over the Press’ decision will not end with the alums’ letter. The Associated Press published a lengthy story on the controversy earlier today, throwing the Press back into the headlines.

Read the alums’ letter — a draft of which was posted to Cross Campus last week — after the jump.

Yale University Press, owned and operated by Yale, has embraced censorship.

The Press accepted for publication “The Cartoons That Shook the World,” by Brandeis Professor Jytte Klausen. Then it deleted the cartoons from her manuscript. Why? Because the cartoons — which ran in newspapers and are on the Internet — might lead to more violence. So Yale’s once-free press did away with them.

The Press’s censors went further, deleting all pictures of Muhammed, including a 19th Century painting by Gustave Dore. Why? Because Islamic law forbids depictions of Muhammed, and — there might be violence. So out went the pictures.

This surrender to unknown potential belligerents drew scorn from the American Association of University Professors. The AAUP summarized Yale’s position: “We do not negotiate with terrorists. We just accede to their anticipated demands.”

Yale should not be the arbiter of what is “safe” to publish. Such censorship violates Yale’s own explicit policy: “Above all, every member of the university has an obligation to permit free expression in the university. . . . Every official of the university . . . has a special obligation to foster free expression and to ensure that it is not obstructed.”

In a world where light and truth are under siege, Yale alumni have a vital stake in preserving a free press. The Yale Corporation must reverse this error, direct the Press to print Klausen’s book with the censored material restored, and distribute it widely — as a tangible reminder that freedom of the press cannot be taken for granted.


Yale Committee for a Free Press

Amir A. Afkhami ’97MA, ’98MPhil, ’03PhD & HS

John R. Bolton ’70, ’74JD

Max Boot ’92MA

Richard Brookhiser ’77

Theodore Bromund ’99PhD

Brian M. Carney ’96

Joshua Chadajo ’01MBA

William W. Chip ’71, ’79JD

Seth Corey ’78

David Frum ’82 BA & MA

Maggie Gallagher ’82

David Gortler, PharmD, PhD, FCCP, Former Faculty in Yale Pharmacology

Todd Hartch ’89, ’95MA, ’00PhD

James Kirchick ’06

Matthew Klein ’09

Lawrence Levine ’00 JD

David Munro ’68

Noah Pollak ’10 MA (anticipated)

Peter R. Rosenblatt ’54, ’57L

Aaron Rothstein ’09

Michael Rubin ’94, ’99PhD

Michael W. Steinberg ’74

Keith Urbahn ’06

Amy L. Wax ’75

Diana West ’83

  • Kenneth R. Mayer

    I endorse this letter; where do I sign?

    Kenneth R. Mayer (Ph.D. 98)

  • Meredith Williams, ’09

    This self-censorship episode was far too “Fahrenheit 481,” and I was disheartened that such nonsense came from Yale. The beauty of free expression is that people can publish what they like and others can ignore it or respond that its disrespectful rubbish; this freedom means people can (and most likely will) offend each other, but that’s how we come to understand each other and this mad world of ours better. With all due respect to the Muslim community (I do sympathize, as I know what it’s like to hear my God and Messiah blasphemed and to see believers ridiculed), this book should have been published with the original images intact. To those who think otherwise, I would say this: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

  • Michael W. Steinberg ’74

    Dear Kenneth Mayer,

    Thank you for your support! If you can provide me with your E-mail address, either here or off-line, I’ll add you to the mailing list, which is growing daily.