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The real problem with the University of California’s statement of principles against intolerance


Kenneth L. Marcus, Washington Post

September 29, 2015
 

Geoffrey R. Stone and Will Creeley were two-thirds right in their Sept. 27 Sunday Opinion commentary, “Restoring free speech on campus.” They were right to denounce academic censorship. They also were right to praise the University of Chicago’s excellent free expression statement as a model for other institutions. But they were wrong to leave it at that.

When universities struggle with how to properly address harassment of women and minority groups, they do not need another lecture on the First Amendment. Rather, they need clear guidance on how to resolve hostile environments consistent with constitutional guarantees. The solution has to begin with university leaders using their freedom of speech to educate about mutual respect, inclusion and civility. To be effective, they need to be clear, firm, specific and detailed.

The problem with the University of California’s recently rejected “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance” is not that it would have banned all derogatory language, as Mr. Stone and Mr. Creeley suggested. Rather, it lacked specificity about how the school would address the challenges facing students at the university (especially anti-Semitic incidents) while protecting academic freedom.

Public universities should use clearly defined terms to explain how they will protect free expression while complying with federal anti-discrimination law. The right answer is not to pit one set of rights against another. University leaders must secure all of them.

Original Article



 
 
 
 
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Over 50% of Jewish American college students report that they experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses during the 2013-2014 academic year. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has announced that campus anti-Semitism “is a serious problem which warrants further attention.” Campus anti-Semitism can include subjecting Jewish students to different treatment, harassment, violence or a hostile environment. In some cases, campus anti-Semitism is related to anti-Israel sentiment. In other cases, it is not. For most purposes, we define anti-Semitism according to the U.S. Department of State definition of anti-Semitism. .
 
 
 
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Walter Reich
Walter Reich is the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Professor of International Affairs, Ethics and Human Behavior, and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, at The George Washington University; a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center; and a former Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
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