Time Again to Support Academic Freedom

This morning, I received the following email from the Brooklyn College President, Karen Gould:

Dear students, faculty, and staff,

Each semester, student clubs, academic departments, and other groups on our campus host events and invite speakers on a broad range of topics. At times, the issues discussed may be challenging and the points of view expressed may be controversial.

Next week, Students for Justice in Palestine is hosting two speakers who will discuss their views on the BDS movement, which calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. The event is co-sponsored by several campus and community organizations, including the political science department.

As an institution of higher education, it is incumbent upon us to uphold the tenets of academic freedom and allow our students and faculty to engage in dialogue and debate on topics they may choose, even those with which members of our campus and broader community may vehemently disagree. As your president, I consistently have demonstrated my commitment to these principles so that our college community may consider complex issues and points of view across the political and cultural spectrum.

Unfortunately, some may believe that our steadfast commitment to free speech signals an institutional endorsement of a particular point of view. Nothing could be further from the truth. Brooklyn College does not endorse the views of the speakers visiting our campus next week, just as it has not endorsed those of previous visitors to our campus with opposing views. We do, however, uphold their right to speak, and the rights of our students and faculty to attend, listen, and fully debate. We also encourage our students and faculty to explore these issues from multiple viewpoints and in a variety of forums so that no single perspective serves as the sole source of information or basis for consideration.

In addition, as I have said on several occasions, our college community values mutual respect and civil discourse. We ask all students, faculty, staff, and guests on our campus to conduct themselves accordingly so that Brooklyn College continues to be a learning environment where all may discuss and debate issues of importance to our world.

Sincerely,

Karen L. Gould
President

A little while later, I saw Corey Robin post the following as his status update on Facebook:

URGENT: Hi everyone. I need you all to stop what you’re doing and make a phone call or write an email to the administration of Brooklyn College. A few weeks ago, my department (political science) voted to co-sponsor a panel discussion, featuring Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti, on the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement against Israel. In the last week, we’ve gotten a lot of pressure and pushback from the media, students, alumni, and now Alan Dershowitz (who’s been trying to track down our chair to “talk” to him). So far, the administration has held firm, but the pressure is only building and they are starting to ask us whether we endorse these views or are merely seeking to air them (to which we responded: “Was the Brooklyn College administration endorsing the pro-torture and pro-Israel views of Alan Dershowitz when it decided to award him an honorary degree?”) Anyway, I need you guys now to send an email or make a phone call encouraging the administration to stand by the department and to stand for the principle that a university should be a place for the airing of views, ESPECIALLY views that are heterodox and that challenge the dominant assumptions of society. Please contact: President Karen Gould (718.951.5671; klgould@brooklyn.cuny.edu); Provost William Tramontano (718.951.5864; tramontano@brooklyn.cuny.edu); and Director of Communications and Public Relations Jeremy Thompson (718.951.5882; JeremyThompson@brooklyn.cuny.edu. Please be polite and respectful, but please be firm on the principle. Right now, they’re only hearing from one side, so it’s imperative they hear from many others.

Please join us in encouraging Brooklyn College to hold the line against those–especially bullies like Alan Dershowitz–who would stifle the open exchange of views on campus. (Links added above.)

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10 comments on “Time Again to Support Academic Freedom

  1. Corey Robin says:

    Samir, Karen Gould’s email is wrong; can you fix? It should be klgould and not kgould.

  2. marcelo finger says:

    I think BDS is obscene. But the proponents of BDS should be allowed to talk. I sincerely hope you let the BDS-is-obscene crowd talk too.

  3. Samir Chopra says:

    Marcelo,

    Of course; I’m hoping anti-BDS folks attend and present their arguments to the speakers. This thing should be debated – not shoved off campus.

  4. [...] I have posted on the BDS event at Brooklyn College before; please do read that post and write in with your expressions of support. The Dershowitz-sponsored [...]

  5. Anna says:

    That is the whole idea — open debate. Dershowitz is a troll who is trying to shut it down. The issue is not whether you think that BDS is right — the issue is whether we want to be a part of a society (or a campus) that pre-chews and pre-screens all debate to make sure that people are not offended. Hey, here is where the harm/offense distinction becomes really handy! ;)

  6. Garibaldi says:

    Thus the infamous alumnus-torture advocate inquires- “Would the political science department of Brooklyn College sponsor and endorse an anti-divestment evening? Would they sponsor and endorse me, a graduate of that department, to present my perspective to their students?”

    To which one veteran Dershowitz observer inquires:”Would the political science department of Brooklyn College PLEASE sponsor and endorse an “anti-divestment evening with Alan Dershowitz? Go ahead. Bring IT on. I will personally supply all the rotten eggs and tomatoes.
    For further context, see following hasbara screed- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-dershowitz/brooklyn-college-politica_b_2582561.html

  7. [...] post on Alan Dershowitz‘s attempt to intimidate the Brooklyn College Political Science department into withdrawing its sponsorship of an event on the BDS movement, featuring Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti, generated some interesting [...]

  8. [...] more direct consideration of comments on my BDS at Brooklyn College and Dershowitz posts (here; here; and here). These are now settling into a familiar pattern of repetition of the same claims [...]

  9. Hi, I know you guys are feeling the heat, and brave humans are often attacked for showing courage. I.E, the authors of defensive and offensive realism. The tide is turning and to many people know the truth, and the reason all this panic is taking place by Dershowitz and the newly created Israeli Blog warriors (often paid and funded by the IDF to post comments!) is because the wall of silence that was imposed has be shattered. There is no going back from here, and the more they squirm the more light they will shine on those who speak the truth. So let the squirm, and keep up the good work for a good cause. The wall of silence has fallen, its time for Israel to look itself in the mirror and see what the rest of the world, including 140 states in the United Nations see.

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