Reflecting on the Events in Charlottesville

UC Davis Chancellor Gary May

To the UC Davis Community:

I have spent the past several days reflecting on what the tragic events in Charlottesville mean for UC Davis. The images of an armed, angry mob marching with torchlights across a college campus and chanting racist slogans were infuriating and frightening. 

It wasn't the actions of “many sides” that led to the deaths of a counterprotester and two state police officers. There was only one side that provoked the hate-fueled violence — those who organized the racially charged rally and the sympathizers who joined them. 

This terrorizing display of racism and hate has raised questions about the limits on freedom of expression. College campuses have always been –– and should continue to be ­­— a forum for wide-open debate and discussion. However, there is an unmistakable difference between protected and prohibited speech. Incitement to violence is not speech. Terrorism is not dialogue. Freedom of speech is about new ideas, not old hate.

I am a strong advocate for free speech, but as chancellor of this university my paramount concern is for the safety of our students, staff and faculty. I assure you that UC Davis has policies and procedures in place for managing events that have any likelihood of provoking violence, and I can promise that we will do everything within our power to ensure the safety of everyone on campus.

We cannot allow our institutions of higher learning to become centers for ideologies repugnant to everything our nation stands for. In times like these, I am inspired by a favored saying of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Intolerance will not win.

Gary S. May