Claremont Insider: Readers Comment on CGU and Free Speech

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Readers Comment on CGU and Free Speech

Our post on the incident at the Claremont Graduate University involving the Turkish consul general and a Glendale videographer prompted several readers to come to CGU's defense.

One reader thought the videographer, Peter Musurlian, wasn't playing fair with CGU when he came into the lecture and videotaped the consul's remarks. The reader complains that the consul general's remarks were taken out of context and that Musurlian was wrong to label CGU "Claremont Genocide University."

Hi insider,

I wasn't at the lecture, but I've heard all about it from faculty members. Musurlian apparently snuck into the meeting without revealing who he was, illegally recorded it for publication on the web without the consent of the people in the room, spliced bits of it out of context, added commentary that hadn't been said in the room, and added inflammatory bits such as "Claremont Genocide University."

It was a huge security mistake by CGU - the CGU side thought he was the consulate's cameraman, and the consulate thought he was CGU's. He never would have been allowed to film if they knew who he actually was,since his whole agenda was to stir up anger against Turkey at any cost.

This sure is a free speech issue - but not Musurlian's. It's a free speech issue for CGU - the university has to have the freedom to bring in speakers who reflect all kinds of views and not necessarily the views of the college. That means having a speaker from Turkey come without automatically being labeled a "genocide" university!

Musurlian's video should have included a bit about how the consulate's views do not represent the views of CGU. That's standard. Calling the university a "genocide" university is just ridiculous.

Mursurlian posed as a cameraman and asked a question during the Q+A directed towards the genocide, intended to stir up heat - without ever identifying who he was. The students in the room were there to talk about Turkey...they were not told that an angry group was filming them and going to use their faces on YouTube.

So while I agree that censorship is an issue at the colleges (helloooo, "white party"), I think this particular issue is more complicated than it first appears. The college has first amendment rights too - and so does the speaker it invited,and the students who got caught in the crossfire.

If Mursurlian really wanted sympathy for his cause (and his cause is very important!), he should have been above-the-table with who he was, what his concerns were, etc. There was no reason to be covert about it and act as if CGU was the mafia.

Then there was this from a reader who felt while that the videographer may have gone out-of-bounds, CGU inflamed the situation with its institutional reaction:
Dear Insider,

Maybe I'm missing something here, but when I watch this YouTube video I see a mild mannered mid-level diplomat, not a Joseph Goebbels. There is something exquisitely absurd about seeing the CGU logo superimposed against a swastika or dripping with photoshopped blood on Mr. Mursulian's website. Maybe he should have talked to this guy:

Rather than a conspiracy against the Armenian-American community, I think what we have here is a simple case of bureaucratic incompetence. By overreacting to this bit of amateur agitprop, CGU's administrators (and lawyers) have only given legs to this non-story. It's like a casestudy in Public Relations 101. Congratulations guys, you got schooled by some dude with a camcorder from Glendale.