Coakley takes a stand

By EDITORIAL  |  November 18, 2009

Free speech at UMass
As a newspaper committed to academic freedom, the Phoenix supports the right of faculty members at UMass-Amherst to invite convicted left-wing bomber Raymond Luc Levasseur to speak on campus. As staunch civil libertarians, we endorse Levasseur's right to be heard.

That Levasseur's presence on a tax-payer-supported campus is deeply offensive to members of the law-enforcement community is understandable. Levasseur's terrorist group was responsible for the 1976 bombing of the Suffolk County Courthouse, and the death of a New Jersey state trooper in 1981. Levasseur was not charged in connection with that death, but he was convicted of bombing several defense-related laboratories. After serving 18 years in federal prison, he is out on parole.

Freedom of speech is this nation's most precious and challenging right. It means tolerating the right of those we may find repugnant to put forth their views. Those opposed should respond with speech of their own.

The UMass administration, however, has hypocritically applied this standard. Several months ago — having made it more onerous than it need have been for campus conservatives to invite right-wing pundit Don Feder to speak — the university failed to discipline left-wing students who denied Feder's right to be heard. Such action is spineless. Failing to defend speech of any political stripe undermines the ability to protect all speech.

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