We, the undersigned friends of the 92nd Street Y, are writing to express our dismay and alarm at the Y’s decision to cancel Viet Thanh Nguyen’s event on October 20th, apparently because of Nguyen’s criticisms of the state of Israel. We fear the Y’s leadership may be leading it down a path it will one day regret.
For decades, the 92nd Street Y has played an irreplaceable role in the development of New York’s intellectual life, bringing powerful art to the public and fostering rich conversations about the most important issues of our time. We have had the pleasure of participating in these conversations as writers, artists, teachers, and students. So we are deeply saddened to see that the Y would abruptly cut ties with a writer simply because his views were different from its own. This is not the Y we know and love.
We acknowledge that the Y has a right to take a political stance on the war in Gaza. We also understand that the Y itself is made up of individuals. We stand with those brave staff members who have already resigned in protest of the Y’s actions, as well as those remaining who fear that their dissent may endanger their employment.
We strongly believe that intelligent persons can disagree on the war; we ourselves are not unanimous in our views. But this is precisely why we must all work harder than ever to safeguard freedom of thought in our institutions. We urge the Y to recommit to its core values of intellectual pluralism and free speech before it does irreparable harm to its reputation and legacy. If the Y continues down the dark road of stifling dissent, many of us will be forced to seriously reconsider our present and future association with this institution we have long admired.
The Y’s own statement on the war quotes from the Book of Ecclesiastes, which tells us that there is “a time to be silent, and a time to speak.” We strongly believe that now is a time to speak, freely and without fear of reprisal.
This was once the mission of the 92nd Street Y. We hope it will be so again.
Andrea Long Chu
Eduardo C. Corral
Carmen Maria Machado
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