People of the Book (and the University)
Not all of the talk at the meeting was about broad issues of faith — much of it focused on the specifics of campus politics.
Deborah E. Lipstadt, director of the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies at Emory University, led a discussion about how colleges should respond to incidents of “hate speech” against Jewish students. Lipstadt, who is considered one of the world’s leading experts on Holocaust deniers, noted that she is a strong supporter of unrestricted speech and that she opposes laws in some countries that limit the ability to argue or publish Holocaust-denying materials. “We have history on our side,” she said, and bans on Holocaust deniers turn them into “martyrs.” For similar reasons, she said she was very skeptical of attempts to regulate campus speech.
In some sense, everyone on the panel agreed, with all endorsing free speech. But some focused on other issues.
Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor known for his fierce defense of the First Amendment and his equally fierce devotion to Jewish causes, said in a video presentation that he is pretty close to being an “absolutist” on free speech issues on campuses. He said that he applauded the idea that campuses needed to have a “circle of civility” for discussion of tough issues. But he said that there needed to be “ism equity” when talking about which kinds of criticism would be tolerated in what way.
Dershowitz said that on many campuses, criticism of Arabs would be labeled harassment while equal criticism of Jews or of Israel would be considered protected free speech. He said that this “double standard” was wrong — and that campuses needed to treat all groups the same way. “You can’t have affirmative action on free speech.”
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Lipstadt discusses free speech on campus
At a recent Hillel sponsored Washington conference on "The University and the Jewish Community", Prof. Lipstadt was among the speakers who addressed the subject of free speech on campus. Inside Higher Ed has a report on the conference; here is an excerpt: