Tonight begins the debate that should have happened a year ago.

When David Horowitz took out an advertisement in The Badger Herald opposing reparations for slavery last spring, a vigorous debate followed.
But the debate was not about reparations. Rather, the debate was about free speech, and it took place amid charges of racism, name-calling and demands for censorship.

But thanks to the Distinguished Lecture Series, the next week holds the promise of a civilized and vigorous debate of the pros and cons of reparations.
The debate begins tonight with a lecture by Randall Robinson, author of “The Debt” and a leading proponent of reparations. Next Tuesday, Horowitz will argue against reparations.

These lectures offer UW the opportunity to embrace the ideals of free speech — the arguments for and against reparations will be evident, and people will be able to judge how they feel about the issue for themselves.

But the lectures also present the danger of censorship and national embarrassment even greater than the Ward Connerly fiasco of four years ago, when the anti-affirmative action speaker was booed off the stage.

We encourage all students to attend both reparations lectures with an open mind and willingness to debate the issues. Disruption and name-calling will cause the issue at hand — reparations — to again be upstaged by a debate over free speech that will only serve to highlight this campus’ intolerance.