When a department at a public university or college sponsors a speaker, it’s usually not an earth-shaking event. It’s usually a scholarly talk that enhances the institution’s learning environment. But with the radicalization of professors today, that could prove a problem. And so it has at my alma mater, Brooklyn College.
On Feb. 7, a radical Islamic student group at the school, Students for Justice in Palestine, along with the school’s political science department, will be official co-sponsors of an event that has stirred up a firestorm on campus. Speakers Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler will speak in favor of “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, “which demands such methods be used against Israeli products around the world. In other words, “Bring Israel to its knees by a commercial boycott.” Liberal attorney Alan Dershowitz, another Brooklyn College graduate, calls this movement “immoral, illegal and despicable.”
May I remind South Florida readers that the Students for Justice in Palestine was recently responsible for posting virulent anti-Israel posters on dorm doors at Florida Atlantic University, with the approval of university officials. And to top it all off, this same group will be active again during “Israel Apartheid Week” next month at FAU, likely viciously defaming Israel. Will the university again be complicit with this group and its goals?
I am calling on all Jewish organizations, including synagogues, to become more heavily involved in speaking out, countering the false claims of Israel haters wherever they rear their ugly, dangerous heads. Free speech on the street and on university campuses is a given right. But university professors and the administrations of these institutions must not support and give credence to hate speech and racism.
Below is a letter from the Brooklyn College student government president on the situation:
“Dear students, faculty members, and administrators,
Over the past few days, there has been much confusion as to exactly why students are upset about the upcoming BDS event on campus. Although the controversy first became public last week, each of Brooklyn College’s student governments have not been directly involved until the past few days. The reason for CLAS’s involvement, accordingly, has nothing to do with the event itself, but instead the recklessness in which faculty members and administrators have approached the event.
The department’s approach to the issue is far from constructive; knowing well in advance that such sponsorship would insult and isolate a large portion of its students, it chose to express its own opinions through a venue that inhibits open dialogue and honest debate. Far from being receptive to students’ concerns, I regret to inform you that they have repeatedly turned down students’ requests to meet and discuss the issue further. Student leaders with questions about the intent of the sponsorship were repeatedly denied meetings, which does worry me as to their original intent. The consequences of these decisions are clear; a growing number of students on campus feel isolated from the very professors whom they once looked to for guidance, and unnecessarily divided against a large portion of the student body. What’s worse, the cause of this rift stems from administrative and faculty bodies who have, throughout the years, frequently stressed the importance of cultivating campus unity.
Along with their right to promote certain opinions comes the responsibility to convey these opinions in a proper manner. This is not an opinion of mine, but rather that of the AAUP, a body responsible for defining what exactly academic freedom rights entail. Professors, according to the AAUP, “should exercise appropriate restraint” when speaking about controversial matters, and “should show respect for the opinions of others”. In endorsing a divisive, controversial event while failing to do so in a way that allows our students and faculty to engage in constructive dialogue, the Political Science Department has failed its students miserably. Like the right to free speech, academic freedom rights are not unbounded; the department has basically yelled “fire” on campus, and locked the doors to their department after doing so. By doing so, it has failed to accomplish one of the main benefits of academic freedom rights, that is, the approach of all ideas and issues with an open mind. Such a failure constitutes as a gross abuse of such rights…read more here.
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