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Submission: Dialogue on GSA event funding issue must be open, respectful

By Janina Montero

Feb. 3, 2016 6:41 a.m.

As vice chancellor of student affairs of one of the top public research universities in the country, I find myself addressing the issue of free speech and open dialogue on our campus again. At UCLA, we are committed to engagement and free speech, as protected under the First Amendment, on a range of views held by our varied and diverse communities. It is core to our mission.

I write this now partly in response to ongoing questions being raised over a Graduate Students Association-funded campus event toward the end of the fall quarter. The issues surrounding the situation are complex, and all relevant campus regulations and policies concerning funding are being reviewed. As part of that review, the cabinet of the GSA, a self-governing body, is consulting with its administrative advisers and campus legal counsel to receive guidance on the university’s policies.

Importantly, situations like this provide an opportunity to underscore that the intellectual and ethical health of a university depend on a robust, honest, thoughtful and informed exchange of ideas. Such an exchange – which may include discussing unpopular or controversial issues – is vital to the educational, research and public service functions of our university.

Indeed, as Chancellor Gene Block has noted before, universities must be places where we learn to examine facts without bias, understand complexity and nuance, and see each other without prejudice. We are at our best as Bruins when we acknowledge the humanity of others, appreciate diverse viewpoints and respond with empathy and respect. Listening only to those ideas we already like or trying to mute the voices of those with whom we disagree does not serve the mission of the university or the ethical or intellectual interests of our community.

Sincerely,

Janina Montero,

Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs

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