Some of you may be aware of an issue that recently has received some attention related to a website run by a university employee on his own personal time with no connection to Cal State Northridge. I am writing with an update about this issue.
Professor Kenneth Ng informed me Thursday night that he is reluctantly taking down his web site on Friday. He will replace it with a brief account of the business dispute that led to the current controversy.
Professor Ng said that he is taking down the site because of the deleterious effect it had on the university’s reputation, not because he considered the subject matter and content as unsuitable for public discourse, public discussion, or public debate.
I thank him for his reflection and removal of the site. I thank the University community for their comments.
I understand that some people will be disappointed that we did not force the site’s closure; others already object that university leadership was critical of a university employee’s speech.
We are trying to balance two principles that, in this case, clashed. Our commitment to gender equity compels us to see the site as offensive; our commitment to expression urges us to tolerate words and pictures we find intolerant. As university leaders, we believe open debate is critical to ordering our values and determining our acts. While belief in an absolute right to censor might initially comfort us; “our” and “us” has a way of quickly narrowing to “you” and “me.” Then the danger is that exclusion and exploitation, the acts that initially incited us to censor, become the rules of the day.
As with other incidents that have arisen on campus in the past, I encourage everyone to use the issues that have been raised in this matter as an opportunity to examine and talk about how we deal with values and perspectives that may conflict with our own while balancing the rights of others.
Harry Hellenbrand, Provost