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IPFS News Link • Education: Colleges and Universities

Free Speech on Campus on the Israel-Palestinian War

•, by Jacob G. Hornberger

Ross Stevens, a big donor to the University of Pennsylvania, is asking for the return of his $100 million donation unless the university fires its president Liz Magill. Stevens got angry when Magill answered a question before a congressional committee in which she did not unequivocally state that calling for the genocide of Jews would necessarily violate the school's code of conduct on bullying and harassment. Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, described Magill's testimony as "catastrophic and clarifying."

Meanwhile, large donors to other major universities are terminating their support because of the failure of school administrators to condemn, punish, or suppress any speech on campus that does not unequivocally side with the Israeli government. Donors claim that permitting anyone on campus to openly sympathize or side with Palestinians or issue any critique of the Israeli government automatically means that the school is "anti-Semitic."

Not surprisingly, mainstream commentators are framing the issue in the context of "free speech." Actually, except as noted below, the controversy has nothing to do with the right of freedom of speech. 

As the owners of their establishments, colleges and universities have the right to set whatever policies they want on their campuses. If they want to prohibit students and teachers, for example, from questioning the Holocaust, they have the right to do that. By the same token, if they decide to have a course taught that questions the Holocaust, they have that right as well.