As you browse through today’s Yale Daily News, you may have become aware of the two major rallies — pro- and anti-Beijing Olympics, respectively — that took place Saturday. Regardless of the goals and results of the two rallies, our community at large benefited from its commitment to the unfettered freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, core values of our society.
It’s unfortunate, though, that the Yale administration failed to commit itself to those core values by overturning its approval of a peaceful assembly on Old Campus on Saturday, citing only vague security concerns.
In the light of the Board of Aldermen’s approval of an anti-Beijing Olympics rally, the Chinese community in greater New Haven region applied to the Yale Dean’s Office regarding the use of Old Campus for a peaceful assembly aimed to inform the Yale and New Haven community about the ignored facts regarding China and the Olympics. The assembly was approved by the Dean’s Office in written form Tuesday morning and forwarded to officers in relevant departments of Yale including the President’s Office and the Yale Security Department. NHPD was also informed of the approval and followed up with the organizers regarding security arrangement Saturday.
Around five in the afternoon on Friday, however, the organizers of the assembly were shocked at the notification from the President’s Office of its decision to overrule the approval from the Dean’s Office and recommended the event be moved to Sunday afternoon to avoid potential trouble with the “other” rally on the Green on Saturday.
Coming less than 20 hours before the scheduled assembly, that decision almost rendered the entire organizational efforts of the peaceful rally in vain. Besides the additional financial cost of canceling and rearranging, the down hours of Friday night shut down almost all the channels for renegotiating with equipment renting firms and performance groups and contacting over 400 volunteers and rally participants for the unexpected change.
Thanks to the emergent support from the city of New Haven, and its commitment to creating an environment that all sides can be heard simulates, the rally was able to proceed Saturday on the Green. No violence occurred, and no hatred was exhibited. Both assemblies were professionally orchestrated, demonstrating admirable degree of order and self-control.
The Yale administration is obliged to explain what events, if any, took place between the 72 hours of Tuesday through Friday that were so significant so as to make it absolutely necessary to call off a rally reviewed by professionals from the Dean’s Office, the Yale Police Department and, ironically, the President’s Office itself.
The sudden discovery of the possible collision of the two rallies is far from convincing. The decision to permit the anti-Olympics rally Saturday was made by the City of New Haven nearly a month ago and was published on the front page of the Yale Daily News. It is hard to believe that the officials in charge of approving the application Tuesday were completely unaware of such a big event taking place.
Furthermore, given that there was always the potential for two rallies, if held simultaneously, to run into one another and cause trouble, would it not have been better to separate them with the solid, opaque walls of Lawrence and Welch, and the heavy Yale ID-only gate of Phelps, instead of holding both of them on the flat, panoramic New Haven Green?
While the students of Yale are taught to “think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable and challenge the unchallengeable,” as stated in the famous Woodward Report, Yale itself, at least in this case, fell short in living up to its own standard of intellectual courage and fairness. Few other institutions in our society carry the same central mission of promoting diversity of voices; fewer, even, are expected to do so.
If New Haven could trust the integrity and sanity of Yale students despite potential “security concerns,” why could Yale — supposedly energetic in cultivating responsible future leaders who dare to pronounce their views — not?
Or are they really “security” concerns?
Qin Han is a student at the Yale School of Music.