Columbia U swiftly pulls plug on freedom of speech in response to pro-Palestine activism

Want to know something frighteningly messed up? When students of color raise concerns over hostile and xenophobic campus atmospheres, when victims of sexual assault question their university’s lackadaisical response, and when statisticians reveal that schools aren’t graduating nearly as many Black students as they admit, a university administrator might throw out a line or two to satisfy reporters before burying the issue.

But then comes along a banner that can singlehandedly mobilize an entire university administration to find time to meet, reexamine longstanding school policies, and individually respond to complaints.

Welcome to the American college system, where requests for clean bathrooms, longer library hours, and more affordable textbook pricing are met with silence, and where you will receive a prompt and personal email reply from a university President if you complain about, say, a sign that says “Stand for Justice, Stand for Palestine”.

Which, of course, is what happened at Columbia University’s Barnard College on Tuesday. [Read more…]

All of the different Irvine 11 verdicts

A verdict has been reached. All ten of the Irvine 11 students have been found guilty on two misdemeanor counts of conspiring to disrupt and then disrupting a speech given by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California – Irvine in February 2010. The ten students have each been sentenced three years of probation, roughly $200 in fines, and 56 hours of community service, according to reports.

But that wasn’t the only verdict reached today.

The court’s decision complements traditional American policy towards Israel and its supporters. The excuse that Israel is forever under existential threat has embedded itself within the framework of the Constitution of the United States. First Amendment rights are no longer guaranteed if an individual is tried for being on the wrong side: for not supporting Israel’s policies in the Middle East, its occupation, its abandonment of the most fundamental form of justice, or its perception of public nonviolent dissent as institutionalized death-wishing festivities. So in a very obvious sense, the real verdict is that Israel’s interests stand above the right to express, to speak, to engage, and to openly challenge the injustices legitimized by Oren’s words.

In another relevant and disturbing perspective of the verdict, the court’s decision reflects that “Muslims are permanent foreigners, at least in Orange County,” according to Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. In yet another blow to Muslim freedoms and civil liberties here in the United States, the ten students have been publicly denied their right to free speech. The Muslim Students Association chapter at UC Irvine will continue to face both legal scrutiny and a heavily watchful eye — unnecessarily and undeservedly, of course — from campus authorities and anti-Muslim groups in the area. This entire case has become a breeding ground for the most virulent and bigoted anti-Islam sentiment enthusiastically shielded by the courthouse’s roof (and, ironically, the principle of “free speech”). [Read more…]


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