Letters: At Villanova, controversy challenges free speech

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Villanova University philosophy professor Gabriel Rockhill presents opposing views of controversial social scientist Charles Murray to students outside Garey Hall auditorium on Thursday.

Controversy vs. free speech

I went to Villanova University to hear Charles Murray speak ("Why Charles Murray was invited to Villanova," Thursday). He supposedly is a misogynistic, white supremacist, hate speaker.

I cannot attest to what he said because I was not one of the lucky 150 to get into the filled-to-capacity lecture hall That didn't stop several speakers from espousing their views about Murray outside Garey Hall. One underlining theme was that they did not agree with Murray, so he should not have been invited. They would have you believe that it was not about free speech, but they just didn't agree with his views, so he should have not been allowed to speak.

If one of the speakers, supposedly a faculty member, was in Russia, and was going on about some noted lecturer, how long would he have been allowed to speak? Thank God we are in the United States and have these freedoms. It is about free speech, not that you or I disagree with what the speaker is saying. Then, have open and meaningful dialogue.

Discuss, debate, and agree or disagree - that is what Villanova stands for. Education, plain and simple.

|Ron Coates, Chadds Ford

It starts with clean water

News that a New York developer purchased four Delaware River piers rightly noted that enlivened public spaces are spurring economic development there ("New tide for riverfront," Tuesday).

The William Penn Foundation has enthusiastically supported this transformation, including a civic engagement process, a new master plan, and a series of riverfront public-access improvement projects.

The Delaware's improved water quality has made the game-changing public spaces and the resulting residential, commercial, and retail projects appealing and viable. The Clean Water Act of 1972 put policies in place that dramatically reduced water pollution and improved water quality nationally, including in the Delaware River. Today, important components of the Clean Water Act are in jeopardy, given the stated priorities and actions of the new administration in Washington.

Philadelphia offers many opportunities for recreation on and along the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, as well as near local streams. As we enjoy these places, we must remember this would not be possible without clean water.

|Andrew Johnson, program director, watershed protection, William Penn Foundation, ajohnson@williampennfoundation.org

Budget cuts threaten safety

President Trump's emphatic declaration that "a budget that puts America first must make the safety of our people its number one priority" designates huge increases in military spending and border security. Yet, that same budget almost wipes out the Environmental Protection Agency, seeming to forget that clean air and water are critical factors in keeping our people safe.

Am I the only one who sees a huge disconnect here?

|Jean Haskell, Philadelphia, jean.haskell205@gmail.com

Let there be neon light

Len Davidson's remarkable collection of neon signs deserves to be exhibited in the best museum in Philadelphia - Philadelphia itself ("Seeking a spot for neon signs to shine," Friday). Most of the signs could be displayed in weatherproof, vandal-proof display cases and dotted around the city - often in front of their original sites, connected to electricity so they could shine as they once did. Labels - large enough to be legible, please - would identify their history and where they originally stood. Like the astounding murals all over Philadelphia and the wonderfully painted electrical boxes that now dot Center City, the signs would bring joy, whimsy, and a touch of history to our great city.

|David Othmer, Philadelphia

Expose kids to African drumming

I was gratified to learn that residents of South Philadelphia had discovered the healing properties of African drumming ("Queen Village drum circle draws neighbors in," Philly.com, March 23). For years, I have asked the Philadelphia School District to make African dance and drumming a part of the arts curriculum, without success.

From the start of the enslavement of Africans in America, African drumming has been deemed as dangerous and was outlawed because it represented a means of communicating that could not be deciphered by enslavers. Additionally, Western religion preached that drumming was to be shunned as a practice of the uncivilized.

Philadelphia is very fortunate, because for decades it has been home to African drum culture. Generations of black men and women have studied the art form in many of the African American dance schools. These emerging drummers were under the tutelage of traditional African master drummers representing the entirety of the diaspora.

Why haven't we linked the Kulu Mele Dance Company and the Camden-based Universal Dance and Drum Ensemble with the Philadelphia school system as a way of providing employment for those talented performing artists while offering instruction and cultural heritage to our children?

|Karen Warrington, Philadelphia