Paul L. Caron

Sunday, December 10, 2023

NY Times Op-Ed: Campus Antisemitism, Free Speech, And Double Standards

New York Times Op-Ed: Campus Antisemitism, Free Speech and Double Standards, by Bret Stephens:

C-SpanThe presidents of Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania testified before a House committee on Tuesday about the state of antisemitism on their campuses. It did not go well for them.

Representative Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, asked the presidents whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” violated the schools’ codes of conduct or constituted “bullying or harassment.” None of them could answer with a yes. M.I.T.’s Sally Kornbluth said it could be, “if targeted at individuals, not making public statements.” Penn’s Elizabeth Magill called it “a context-dependent decision.” Harvard’s Claudine Gay agreed with Magill and added that it depended on whether “it crosses into conduct.” ...

[T]he deep problem with their testimonies was not fundamentally about calls for genocide or free speech. It was about double standards — itself a form of antisemitism, but one that can be harder to detect.

The double standard is this: Colleges and universities that for years have been notably censorious when it comes to free speech seem to have suddenly discovered its virtues only now, when the speech in question tends to be especially hurtful to Jews.

The point came across at different moments in the hearing. Representative Tim Walberg, a Michigan Republican, observed that Carole Hooven, an evolutionary biologist, had been hounded out of Harvard (though not fired outright) for her views on sex categories. “In what world,” Walberg asked, “is a call for violence against Jews protected speech but a belief that sex is biological and binary isn’t?” ...

Other examples abound. ... At Yale, the law professor Amy Chua was relieved of some teaching duties and ostracized by students and the administration on blatantly pretextual grounds while her original sin, as The Times reported in 2021, was her praise for Brett Kavanaugh. Yet when Zareena Grewal, an associate professor of American studies at Yale, posted on X on Oct. 7 that Israel “is a murderous, genocidal settler state and Palestinians have every right to resist through armed struggle,” Yale defended her by saying Grewal’s comments “represent her own views.” ...

[Gay, Kornbluth and Magill] must decide: If they are seriously committed to free speech — as I believe they should be — then that has to go for all controversial views, including when it comes to incendiary issues about race and gender, as well as when it comes to hiring or recruiting an ideologically diverse faculty and student body. If, on the other hand, they want to continue to forbid and punish speech they find offensive, then the rule must apply for all offensive speech, including calls to wipe out Israel or support homicidal resistance.

If Tuesday’s hearing made anything clear, it’s that the time for having it both ways, at the expense of Jews, must come to an end now.

New York Times, As Fury Erupts Over Campus Antisemitism, Conservatives Seize the Moment:

For years, conservatives have struggled to persuade American voters that the left-wing tilt of higher education is not only wrong but dangerous. Universities and their students, they’ve argued, have been increasingly clenched by suffocating ideologies — political correctness in one decade, overweening “social justice” in another, “woke-ism” most recently — that shouldn’t be dismissed as academic fads or harmless zeal.

The validation they have sought seemed to finally arrive this fall, as campuses convulsed with protests against Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and hostile, sometimes violent, rhetoric toward Jews. It came to a head last week on Capitol Hill, as the presidents of three elite universities struggled to answer a question about whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate school rules, and Republicans asserted that outbreaks of campus antisemitism were a symptom of the radical ideas they had long warned about. On Saturday, amid the fallout, one of those presidents, M. Elizabeth Magill of the University of Pennsylvania, resigned. ...

[F]or many on the right, the careful, evasive answers from three college presidents at Tuesday’s hearing — Ms. Magill, Claudine Gay of Harvard and Sally Kornbluth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — were in stark contrast to those institutions’ long indulgence of left-wing sensitivities around race and gender.

All three institutions have in recent years punished or censored speech or conduct that drew anger from the left. In 2019, Harvard revoked a deanship held by Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., a Black law professor, after students protested his joining the legal team of the former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. In 2021, M.I.T. canceled a planned scientific lecture by the star geophysicist Dorian Abbot, pointing to his criticism of affirmative action. The University of Pennsylvania’s law school is seeking to impose sanctions on a tenured professor there, Amy Wax, citing student complaints about her remarks regarding the academic performance of students of color, among other provocations.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, which advocates free speech in American society, ranks hundreds of colleges for their protection of students’ rights and open inquiry. Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania sit at the bottom.

“The same administrators now cloaking themselves in the mantle of free speech have been all too willing to censor all kinds of unpopular stuff on their campuses,” said Alex Morey, the foundation’s director of campus rights advocacy. “It is such utter hypocrisy.”

The Free Press, Safety First on Campus. Except for Jews:

Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink