'A Treasured Value'

UT's faculty council considered the Justice for All episode on Monday, March 19. The meeting began with the reading of a prepared statement from President Larry R. Faulkner (who was attending a conference in Brazil). Faulkner summarized the background of the university's permission for the JFA exhibit, noting that "the [JFA] student leadership had engaged counsel and many of their communications were of a legal nature." Faulkner said the decision to allow the exhibit was ultimately "required by our institutional obligations under the First Amendment." He said the aftermath of the exhibit made it clear that the university needs to take a closer look at its policies governing such displays, as well as co-sponsorship by outside organizations (not currently allowed under UT rules). Of all the controversies at issue, Faulkner noted, "It is very clear that our policy on amplified sound is not well understood."

Referring to the JFA exhibit, Faulkner said he agreed that "the particular display at issue here went beyond civil bounds." He went on, "But whether it went beyond permissible bounds is not just a legal question for our academic community, where freedom of expression is a treasured value ... . There is great peril in venturing to shield ourselves from offense. Speaking personally and officially, I would move to modify our historic tolerance only with the greatest care."

Faulkner defended the official position of the university police ("Whatever institutional fault exists does not belong to them"), but he said, "I am personally sorry that matters evolved as they did and that Professor [Mia] Carter, or anyone else, suffered injury of any kind ... [I]t is not in keeping with the idea of a university that our members should be physically harmed."

Faulkner announced that UT Dean Sharon Justice will chair a special committee to review the policy questions raised by the JFA episode. After a few minutes of additional discussion -- including a brief statement, on request, by Mia Carter -- the council voted by acclamation to ask the administration to investigate whether during the protests, Carter had been singled out by the UT Police Department.

After the council meeting, Mia Carter wrote to supporters that she was "terribly disappointed with President Faulkner's official letter.... It was clear to me that the Administration plans to continue its whitewashing of the recent events on campus. The emphasis on rules is especially offensive if one reads the JFA-University correspondence."

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