Also being a 2009 alum, I’d like to offer two quick responses to Tyler Hill’s column (“Practice what you teach,” Aug. 28) bemoaning Yale’s decision to omit the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a book its press is publishing:
Hill claims that, without these photos, free exchange of ideas is compromised. Here I agree with him. Yet he assumes that because the photos are omitted from this particular book, readers won’t have access to them at all. In fact, that the photos aren’t published in this particular book is no threat whatsoever to academic freedom as long as they are widely available from other sources. After reading his column, it took me about 45 seconds to find the cartoons on Wikipedia, and only because I misspelled the word “cartoons.”
I’m confident that when Yale decided to omit these photos, one factor in their decision was whether researchers and students could access the cartoons through other means without too much inconvenience. It’s hard to make the case that this omission stifles discussion when the omitted material is already easily available. I don’t know what it is that disgusts so many people about this decision, but to say that it inhibits the free exchange of ideas is blatantly dishonest.
I wish Hill and others would be forthcoming about what really upsets them, rather than pretending this decision somehow interferes with academic freedom. For all the fuss being made about academic freedom (while at Yale, I never met someone who correctly understood that term), it’s the most rank kind of hypocrisy to disguise one’s motives while advocating for open, honest, rigorous discussion.
Michael Wayne Harris
The writer is a 2009 graduate of Branford College.