The Yale Committee for a Free Press – a group of alumni decrying Yale’s decision to remove caricatures of Muhammad from a book about the 2005 Danish cartoon controversy – sent a letter today to University President Richard Levin and the Yale Corporation. The group voiced similar concern in a September letter to the Yale Alumni Magazine.

The letter, written by Washington lawyer Michael Steinberg ’74, urges the Yale Corporation to insist that the Press reprint the book with the images of the prophet included, citing the importance of the first amendment. There are 44 alumni who signed the letter, 19 more than the last one.

Dear President Levin and Members of the Yale Corporation:

As current and former Yale students and faculty members, we formally request that the Corporation take action in regard to Yale’s recent publication of “The Cartoons That Shook the World,” by Professor Jytte Klausen of Brandeis University. Specifically, we urge that Yale rectify its unprecedented censorship of Professor Klausen’s book, which went on sale this week.

Yale accepted Professor Klausen’s book for publication. Then it deleted the cartoons from her manuscript. Yale’s censors went even further, deleting all images of Muhammed, including a 19th Century work by Gustave Dore.

The circumstances surrounding this censorship remain murky, and Yale’s public explanations to date have been incomplete. Although no direct or specific threat was made against Yale, we cannot fault the University for being concerned about potential violence. But we emphatically reject the premise that freedom of the press should ebb and flow with the vagaries of threat assessments

Simply stated, Yale must not be the arbiter of what is “safe” to publish. Such censorship corrodes the intellectual freedom that is the foundation of the entire university community. It also 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.”

The core American value of a free press transcends political viewpoints. Indeed, Yale’s surrender to unknown potential belligerents drew strong objection from many quarters, including the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the PEN American Center. Also protesting Yale’s action was the National Coalition Against Censorship on behalf of many constituent groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Middle East Studies Association.

Even closer to home, Sarah Ruden, whose translation of Virgil’s Aeneid was published by Yale, announced that she will no longer allow Yale to bid on her future works. In her own words, “Yale Press, after breaking a crucial relationship of trust with an author’s mind and work, should be called a lickspittle of fanatics and forfeit any respect or consideration from other authors.”

In a world where light and truth are under siege, the entire Yale community has a vital stake in preserving a free press. Fortunately, it is not too late, and not too difficult, to reverse the mistake that was made here.

We formally request that the Yale Corporation direct the Press to reprint Professor Klausen’s book with the censored material restored. This will bring a fitting end to this controversy. Lest it be said that the Corporation has never before exercised such direct authority over the Press, we must recall that never before has the Press censored an author’s work prior to publication. Restoring the censored material will also allow Professor Klausen’s book work to serve 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

Anne Applebaum ‘86

Richard S. Bell ’73JD

John R. Bolton ’70, ’74JD

Max Boot ’92MA

Richard Brookhiser ’77

Theodore Bromund ’99PhD

Eleanor Burgess ‘07

Brian M. Carney ’96

Joshua Chadajo ’01MBA

William W. Chip ’71, ’79JD

Andrew P Clark ‘09MA

Seth Corey ’78

Lanny J. Davis ’67, ‘90JD

Jonina Duker ‘78

Eric Edelman ‘73MA, ‘81PhD

Elihu H. Estey ‘68

David Frum ’82BA & MA

Maggie Gallagher ’82

David Gortler, former Associate Professor of Pharmacology

Yale School of Medicine

Todd Hartch ’89, ’95MA, ’00PhD

Dr. Eugene W. Holland ’74

Michael Horowitz ‘64JD

Robert Kagan ‘80

Ben Z. Katz, M.D., former Faculty in Pediatric Medicine,

Yale School of Medicine

James Kirchick ’06

Matthew Klein ’09

Lawrence Levine ’00JD

John W. Mauck ‘69

Kenneth Mayer ‘98PhD

David Munro ’68

Craig Oxman ’74

Roger Pardo-Maurer ‘84

Noah Pollak ’10MA (anticipated)

Peter R. Rosenblatt ’54, ’57L

Aaron Rothstein ’09

Michael Rubin ’94, ’99PhD

Michael W. Steinberg ’74

Keith Urbahn ’06

Richard Vigilante ’78

Simon Vukelj ’92

Amy L. Wax ’75

Diana West ’83

Meredith Williams ‘09