View all Literary Cafe events at http://www.americanfreedomalliance.org/newsletter/AFA-literary-cafe.htm
View all Literary Cafe events at http://www.americanfreedomalliance.org/newsletter/AFA-literary-cafe.htm
Up until two weeks ago, Jewish students across the nation were not protected against racially charged attacks on campus.
For close to seven years, the Office of Civil Rights, mandated to enforce the Title VI provisions of the1964 Civil Rights Act, failed to provide any guidelines for the protection of Jewish students from racially charged assaults. Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in any programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance. This of course included state universities .
But for years the OCR has failed to include antisemitic attacks on Jewish students because it could not, or rather would not, concede that Jewish students fell within the embrace of the term ” race” and would not expand the meaning of “race, color or national origin” to include religion. Nor was it prepared to apply its criteria to anti Zionist speeches and actions, even when such activities clearly crossed the line into outright attacks on Jews.
The reasons for this are a mixture of timidity, confusion and obfuscation on the part of the OCR. Claiming it could not come to a satisfactory definition of who is a Jew, they sat on their hands and did nothing, while attacks and intimidation by Muslim students against Jewish spiraled into a virtual pandemic on a number of college campuses.
But on October 26, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued a letter that in effect applies Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the protection of Jewish students from anti-Semitism on campuses:
” While Title VI does not cover discrimination based solely on religion,14 groups that face discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics may not be denied protection under Title VI on the ground that they also share a common faith. These principles apply not just to Jewish students, but also to students from any discrete religious group that shares, or is perceived to share, ancestry or ethnic characteristics (e.g., Muslims or Sikhs). Thus, harassment against students who are members of any religious group triggers a school’s Title VI responsibilities when the harassment is based on the group’s actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, rather than solely on its members’ religious practices.”
Under the Department of Education new guidelines, the Civil Rights Act can now be invoked if anti-Jewish behavior is considered to be based on shared ethnic characteristics.
The government’s failure to address the outrages at certain California campuses had created a significant anomaly in the law, one in which Jews were treated differently from virtually any other group. African-Americans, Arabs, Hispanics, women, older students, and even Boy Scouts who charge their schools with discrimination formerly could have their cases investigated by the federal government.
Yet that was not the case for Jewish students. The incidents at U.C. Irvine in Southern California alone over the past seven years speak for themselves. Jewish students have been physically and verbally assaulted, causing some to fear wearing anything identifying them as Jews or pro-Israel; speakers have compared Jews to Nazis and to Satan operating in the shadows; posters have depicted the Star of David dripping with blood and equating it with the swastika; a Holocaust memorial was destroyed; and swastikas have defaced campus property. The atmosphere of hate culminated with an attack on February 8 of this year when Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Michael Oren, addressing a public gathering on campus, was repeatedly interrupted by jeering Muslim students who launched an unseemly cocktail of antisemitic and anti-Zionist slurs, refused to allow him to deliver his remarks. Eventually eleven Muslim students were arrested by campus police for disturbing the peace.
Yet the U.C. Irvine Administration, which had for years labeled the antisemitic slurs as free speech had done little to address the problem. The Michael Oren incident however seemed to induce movement. In August the Muslim Student Union was banned for the entire succeeding academic year.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Within a month, the administration, bowing to pressure from a variety of camps groups, agreed to commute the expulsion to one semester. Within a few weeks a new organization Alkalima: Muslim students at UCI had sprung up sporting essentially the same identity as the banned Muslim Student Union. Already this new organization is bringing to campus the same antisemitic/ anti-Zionist programming of its predecessor.
This action should be followed immediately by other by swift rebukes and condemnations at other troubled campuses including U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Santa Cruz and U.C. Santa Barbara. It is hoped that it will inspire more determined responses to the rise of anti-Semitism on other North American campuses such as Concordia and York in Canada and Columbia in New York.
By Anne Coulter’s own admission, its been a pretty rough week. Over the past few days she has been accused of thought crimes, threatened with criminal prosecution for speeches she hasn’t yet given and denounced on the floor of a Legislature. Posters advertising her speech have been officially banned, while campus billboards denouncing her are pervasive.
Where is she? In the capital of a liberal democracy having been invited to deliver a speech that no one will now hear.
On March 22, Coulter was scheduled to speak on behalf of the International Free Press Association at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, the second appearance in a national tour. But with 2,000 protesters gathered outside the University’s Marion Hall bearing stones and other projectiles, and with the very real risk of violence, the appearance had to be cancelled.
Unknown to most, however, it was not Coulter herself who decided to cancel the speech, but the Ottawa police, who could not or would not guarantee her safety.
Before she arrived, François Houle, the University’s Academic Vice-President Academic and Provost wrote her a cautionary letter suggesting that she ought to weigh her words with “respect and civility in mind”
” There is a strong tradition in Canada, including at this University, of restraint, respect and consideration in expressing even provocative and controversial opinions and I urge you to respect that Canadian tradition while on our campus. Hopefully, you will understand and agree that what may, at first glance, seem like unnecessary restrictions to freedom of expression do, in fact, lead not only to a more civilized discussion.”
This is part of the same Canadian campus scene, of course, where Catholics have been accused of being killers and pedophiles, evangelicals of being hate-mongers and homophobes, Zionists of being genocidal butchers and conservatives of being deranged and imbecilic.
How is that for “ restraint, civility and respect?”
The University of Ottawa now joins that pantheon of great Canadian universities, such as York University (Daniel Pipes) and Concordia (Benjamin Netanyahu) where violence has been threatened and used to quash an alternative point of view.
Coulter might pay Pipes’ experience particular note. Recalling the January, 2003 incident where his talk “Barriers to Peace in the Middle East” was cancelled and then reinstated at the last minute, the Middle East expert stated:
” But surely the most memorable aspect of this talk was the briefing by James Hogan, a detective in the Hate Crime Unit of the Toronto Police Service, to make sure I was aware that Canada’s Criminal Code makes a variety of public statements actionable, including advocating genocide (up to five years in prison) and promoting hatred of a specific group (up to two years).”
Things have not changed all that much at York in the intervening eight years. Last month, a series was to be presented by the actively pro- Israel group Christians United For Israel ( CUFI). However, as David Frum reports, campus police made the following demands of the group:
” It insisted on heavy security, including both campus and Toronto police — all of those costs to be paid by the program organizers. The organizers would also have to provide an advance list of all program attendees and advance summaries of all the speeches. No advertising for the program would be permitted — not on the York campus, not on any of the other campuses participating by remote video.”
Interestingly, an anti- Israel apartheid week in the same month had no such barriers placed upon it. It did not have to pay for its own security. It was free to advertise and its speakers were not pre-screened.
In September, 2002 , a speech by then Israeli Finance Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu at Concordia University in Montreal was similarly cancelled when students broke through barriers and attempted to storm the auditorium. Riot police had to escort attendees from the building. One of the student recalled:
” The scene as we exited was disgusting. Benches were overturned, papers and garbage streaked across the hallways, and broken windows. We were shoved outside directly into a huge pro-Palestinian riot, where some of our people were apparently attacked… On their side, they threw bottles at people’s heads, screamed hatred, and tried to break the barriers down to hurt us. They started tossing pennies and coins at us — one of the oldest ways to taunt Jews by saying we’re all “money-grubbing.” While we sang Hatikvah arm in arm, they spat at us.”
The sheer terror of the scene is captured evocatively in the documentary Confrontation@Concordia.
I’ m no great fan of Ann Coulter’s. I find much of her work tasteless. But tastelessness does not amount to hate speech, no matter what the University of Ottawa’s administration nor York University’s campus police believe. The apparent willingness to allow those who employ violence and intimidation to speak without restraint, while those who refuse to do so have their speech reviewed, monitored, crimped and even cancelled, is craven surrender to anti-democratic notions and a potential death blow to free speech.
Do our western university administrations understand this? Have they no courage at all to employ their authority on campus to decisively impose zero tolerance proscriptions on hate mongering against conservatives and its attendant violence?
I am not sure. Certainly Canada is in the throes of a serious reversal of basic democratic rights, convincing itself that it is all in the interests of keeping the peace. That attitude will haunt the nation as a generation comes to realize that it can achieve with violence far more than what it can gain through dialogue and openness to alternative points of view.
One has to wonder whether Provost Houle and others of his ilk appreciate that this is exactly the kind of “civilized discussion” our future universities can anticipate and could be their most fateful legacy.
It is not so long ago that I thought everyone shared exactly the same grasp of the concept of academic freedom. Stated plainly it is defined as affording teachers in schools and universities the liberty to teach, pursue, and discuss knowledge without restriction or interference, by either school administrations or public officials. The concept had its origins in Germany in the 1850s and became institutionalized in the United States when the American Association of University Professors laid down its principles in 1913 and later clarified them in 1940. The AAUP Declaration of Principles not only protected teachers, but also protected students who were to be free of ideological coercion from their instructors
Since then, it has become a fundamental building block of the modern democratic state – so essential to the maintenance of an open and free society that it is spoken of in the same breathless, sacrosanct tones as freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.
But what happens when professors on our university campuses use the shield of academic freedom to promote antisemitism, racial prejudice, Holocaust denial and support for America’s enemies? Are they deserving of the same protections afforded others with controversial views?
That question was brought poignantly to my attention this week when the communications of a University of Santa Barbara professor’s anti-Israel slurs became very public.
The facts are these: On January 19, 2009, UC Santa Barbara professor, Bill Robinson, a tenured sociology professor, e-mailed his Globalization class students an inflammatory anti-Israel written article by Judith Stone along with 42 photos of Nazi atrocities which were mirrored by 42 photographs of Israel’s purported atrocities in its war in Gaza earlier this year. His introductory comments equated Israel’s military operations in Gaza with Nazi atrocities, asserted that Israel was committing genocide and that the state was founded on the negation of another people. When one surprised student emailed asking whether this was an assigned reading, Professor Robinson admitted it had nothing to do with the course, but “was just for your interest, as I should have clarified.”
Two students promptly dropped the class. They later filed grievances, claiming that Professor Robinson had violated the Faculty Code of Conduct in that:
1. There should be no significant intrusion of material unrelated to the course
(II A, 1, b);
2. That faculty members should not use their positions of power to coerce judgment or conscience of a student ((II, A, 4);
3. That faculty should not use University resources for personal, commercial, political, or religious purposes (II, C, 3)).
The UCSB Faculty Code of Conduct is perfectly in line, in these matters, with the traditional protections afforded by academic freedom. The Code in fact follows many of the faculty directives of other universities around the country.
But Robinson was outraged at what he considered to be a Zionist conspiracy to silence him and strip him of his supposed academic rights. Within days of the filing of the complaint, a new campus organization, the Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB sprang into life, with dozens of UC Santa Barbara professors signing on and hundreds of students declaring their support for the beleaguered professor. Robinson, writing in his own defense, focused on what he regarded as the violation of procedural issues and then went on to claim that “I find this complaint to be a potent, ominous, politicized violation of academic freedom. My right, in accordance with the (UCSB Faculty) Code to ‘present controversial material relevant to a course of instruction’, is being violated. ” His supporters, among them noted professors at UCSB, claimed that Robinson is the victim of a witch hunt.
At issue, of course, is the question of whether professors can say anything they want, whenever they want and, while providing their students with materials which subscribe to highly controversial points of view, fail to offer countervailing opinions or materials. It should be no surprise that professors such as Robinson, and his counterparts in anti -Israel and anti-American invective such as Norman Finkelstein and Ward Churchill, regularly use academic freedom to mask the propagation of their radical points of view. Nor should it surprise anyone that the radicalization of the campus has not been enough for such men. The desire to offend and to even speak flagrant untruths seems to be now claimed as protected aspects of teaching that comes under the rubric of academic freedom
On the right, the complete collapse of academic freedom, wherein conservatives can barely express an opinion nor be taken seriously as competent in their fields, is a fixed belief. Last week, at about the same time I was learning about Robinson’s case, a Californian female professor seeking employment out of state informed me that at the interview with the university in question, she had been intensely grilled about her suspected conservative views and affiliations. She instinctively knew that any admission that she harbored such views or affiliations, would have doomed her candidacy.
That academic freedom – or its abuse- is being claimed by both right and the left to defend various points of view was made clear to me last year when I was putting the finishing touches on AFA’s own academic freedom conference How Free Is the University?
In the course of our research we discovered that several other academic freedom conferences had been organized within months of our own. The University of Chicago held a one day conference on October 12, 2007 titled In Defense of Academic Freedom which featured the redoubtable leftist beneficiaries of academic freedom Noam Chomsky, John Mearsheimer and Tony Judt themselves.
In early February, 2008, academics at De Paul University, reacting angrily to the tenure denials of Norman Finkelstein and Mehrene Larudee ( who were denied their full professorships, it seems, on the basis of the shoddiness of their research rather than the controversy of their views) ran its own conference titled the De Paul Academic Freedom Conference which featured a number of practitioners of “balanced” political instruction such as Bill Ayres, Asad AbuKhlalil and Juan Cole.
A few weeks later it was New York University’s turn to join the chorus, decrying the collapse of academic freedom when it ran its own conference First National Teach-In on Freedoms at Risk in America.
This time around, the gathering of the persecuted included the aforementioned Norman Finkelstein ( last seen on al Jazeera Television espousing support for a terrorist organization and denouncing Israel) and Lynne Stewart, convicted in 2005 of conspiracy to provide and conceal material support for terrorists.
So on the one hand you have conservatives denouncing the absence of academic freedom for their positions, while on the other, you have exactly the same hue and cry is being whelped by radical leftists who feel similarly abandoned in the cold.
Newspaper editors often argue that if you are offending both sides equally then you know you are doing a good job.
Who is right then?
The harsh, brutal answer is that the words ” academic freedom” themselves no longer have much meaning for anyone other than historians. That is because academic freedom did not develop as a means of promoting any particular point of view but was a vehicle to assist academics in their quest for truth. On this path, academics should be balancing a wide variety of materials and arguments, the better to test the credibility of any given proposition or theory. In such a pursuit of knowledge and truth ‘balance’ is an absolutely critical ingredient -a requirement which really forms the bedrock of the academic freedom philosophy.
But with such a highly charged atmosphere on campus these days it is almost impossible to obtain that kind of objectivity from anyone – administrators included. Even in the sciences, where one would believe that the data speaks for itself, politics has intruded, barring any discussion of such sensitive subjects as the theory of intelligent design, the growing evidence against man-made climate change or the discovery of e in the universe of proof for the uniqueness of our planet.
Yet the tug of war between the two sides has essentially split the baby in two, rendering the entire concept of academic freedom, rather than a universally accepted philosophy, now more of one of personal preference to be decided on an individual basis. The concept of academic freedom probably then needs an overhaul ,to be replaced by an entirely new philosophical construct - one that is primarily based on the demands for balance and the objective pursuit of truth. How such a philosophy can be discussed or constructed, let alone agreed to in the oxygen starved atmosphere of the modern university campus, remains to be seen.
But while we are waiting for the academy to be rehabilitated, one thing remains clear: any academic – liberal or conservative, radical leftist or fundamentalist right winger, who espouses any personal point of view without at least considering an opposing position, cannot be trusted. His or her written work should not be taken seriously; their teachings should be regarded as suspect and their scholarly failings rightfully exposed.
Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky should take note. And so should Professor William Robinson at the University of California, Santa Barbara.