Kaplan’s letter — while firm in denying that he said the hateful things attributed to him — is also notably restrained and reflective for a man who has been pilloried for a week. A lawyer who also has a Ph.D. in psychology, Kaplan has focused on both law and mental health, and his reply begins by talking about all he has learned in the last week or so about Hmong culture and the challenges the Hmong have encountered....This article quotes the statement of the Committee for Academic Freedom and Rights and continues:
Jonathan Knight, who directs the program in academic freedom and tenure for the American Association of University Professors, said that disputes like the one at Wisconsin do have the potential to raise issues of academic freedom — especially if there is a rush to judgment. “Plainly administrators should take seriously what students complain about, and see if there is merit about it,” he said. But “restraint in public statements” is ideal, even given the pressure to speak out against statements viewed as racist or sexist, he said.
Certain kinds of statements “trigger fast reactions,” Knight said. “There have been occasions when the reactions were well founded,” he said. “But there have been others that were not well founded or were somehow in between, so a dose of prudence and caution is always useful.”
Knight said he was not bothered by administrators acknowledging the pain felt by those offended by something alleged to have been said — the pain being real even if the person never said the words in question. But Knight said he worried about holding forums for people to express their pain when the facts were still being gathered, as happened at Wisconsin. “That can create its own dynamics, which is a problem,” he said. “In creating a forum, inevitably that will suggest that there is a real problem. The forum is not being held to discuss a perception, but what seems to be a reality i.e. that someone has said something that is racist or sexist or vilely offensive.”
He added that while it is “laudable for administrators to pay heed to community sentiments, that can come at a quick and high cost to the sense of freedom necessary for faculty to teach controversial and sensitive subjects.”
(To read all my posts on this incident, click the label "Kaplan story," just below.)
ADDED: The Badger Herald has a good editorial:
[I]nstead of fighting fire with fire, Mr. Kaplan’s letter is the mark of a compassionate man who, as he writes, “regret[s] the part that [his] own limitations played in contributing to” the controversy. To be sure, he does not apologize, and if his account — which has been effectively corroborated by other students in his class — is accurate, even the aforementioned statement of regret is not necessary.It's nice of the student editors to be delighted by a professor's "tedious detail"! We have much more tedious detail to delight you with, you know.
We were delighted to see the professor describe, in tedious detail, exactly the points he was trying to illustrate in discussing the Hmong community....
When a Badger Herald reporter sought comment Monday from the students who have led the charge against Mr. Kaplan, UW student [name deleted], who was present at the Feb. 15 lecture, responded with just a six-word e-mail, saying, “We are disappointed in his response.”Well, Kaplan took a long silence and didn't respond to press reports. If it takes them a while to think through what they want to say, it's understandable.
Meanwhile, UW student [name deleted], who first circulated the complaints via e-mail but was not in Mr. Kaplan’s lecture, declined comment altogether.
The Badger Herald editors go on to say "it's the classic 'he said, she said' scenario" but "we believe Mr. Kaplan." The editors opine that the students acted "irresponsibly," but not "maliciously," and suggest that they "seriously consider issuing a public apology to Mr. Kaplan." They praise CAFAR:
[W]hile a disturbing number of individuals exhibited a galling willingness to reach hasty, damning conclusions, UW’s Committee for Academic Freedom and Rights released an articulate, well-reasoned defense of academic freedom, a value under continual threat here at UW and other campuses across the country.And they express hope that "Kaplan’s letter will be the start of the end to this sordid affair, so we can all move on with a renewed understanding of what can happen when we throw to the wayside values we ought to cherish."
NOTE: I've deleted the student names that originally appeared here. I didn't like using the students' names, and only had them because they were in the newspaper article I was commenting on. Obviously, the names are still available in the linked newspaper articles.