Commentary: Yale Decision to Limit Access to Controversial Lecture Runs Counter to Free Expression Commitments

PEN America

Excerpt: Yale University’s School of Medicine has decided to restrict access to a recording of a talk by psychiatrist Dr. Aruna Khilanani. The lecture, delivered online April 6 as part of the school’s “Grand Rounds” lecture series, generated public outcry over Khilanani’s discussion of racial stereotypes about white people, and some violent subject matter including fantasies of shooting them. The School of Medicine has said the talk was “antithetical to the values of the school” and cited the “extreme hostility, imagery of violence, and profanity expressed by the speaker” as grounds for overriding the considerations of freedom of expression. Khilanani has said that her words have been “taken out of context,” and that she prefaced her remarks as using “provocation as a tool for real engagement.”

“Free expression policies must not be discarded when provocative, offensive, or discomforting remarks are challenged—rather, those are the difficult times when free speech must be most robustly upheld.”