First they censor Palestine…

Ali Abunimah  25 October 2017 –  Electronic Intifada

Three students at Barnard College, which is affiliated with New York’s Columbia University, are facing punishment for protesting a speech earlier this month by a notorious white supremacist.

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, the British Islamophobe and English Defence League founder who goes by the pseudonym Tommy Robinson, spoke to Columbia students via Skype on 10 October.

According to campus newspaper The Columbia Spectator, dozens of students interrupted Robinson’s speech and held up signs, while 250 more protested outside the venue.

Almost 5,000 people have signed a petition supporting the students, and mobilizations to defend them are being organized on campus.

“By attempting to silence protesters while providing space and funds for hate speech at Columbia, Suzanne Goldberg and other university administrators are demonstrating complicity with violent ideologues whose claims continue to actively harm historically marginalized students,” the petition states.

The petition quotes a mass email from Columbia vice-president Suzanne Goldberg that “it is foundational to Columbia’s learning and teaching missions that we allow for the contestation of ideas, as President Bollinger has often made clear.”

If Goldberg and university president Lee Bollinger “truly believed in open dialogue and the ‘contestation of ideas,’ they would not be threatening student protesters with disciplinary action,” the petition states.

Continue reading “First they censor Palestine…”


Limits on Free Speech?

December 7, 2017 – Academe Blog

Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkeley and a member of the Berkeley Faculty Association and the AAUP.  The following is the slightly edited text of remarks she delivered December 4 at a forum sponsored by the Berkeley Academic Senate, “Perspectives on Freedom of Expression on Campus.” 

Thank you for this opportunity to pose some questions that might prove useful for our discussion today.  In most courses dedicated to the study of constitutional principles, it makes sense to start with cases that produce a problem for the law.  What if we also start by identifying a set of quandaries not because this is a law school course, but rather because one reason the applicability of the First Amendment is not always clearly understood is precisely because it is sometimes found to be in conflict with other constitutional principles or legal statutes.  In such cases, it becomes possible to ask why one constitutional principle takes precedence over another, or to ask whether there are some rather abiding dilemmas in the law that demand a certain kind of judgment.  We can more easily claim what the law is than how best to judge in light of the law in any given case.  And if we are part of a larger public trying to make sense of a First Amendment claim as it comes into conflict with other constitutional principles, or other basic values, then knowing what the law is does not immediately tell us how best to form a judgment of the situation at hand.

Continue reading “Limits on Free Speech?”

Academic Freedom, Anti-Left Witchhunts, and the Palestine Exception

August 15, 2017
Talk by Ty Briggs and Sumaya A

There has been an ongoing attack on the rights of professors who express left-wing or progressive views, particularly around the question of Palestine. Steven Salaita, for example, was denied a promised tenured position at the University of Illinois for issuing angry Tweets condemning Israel’s bombing of Gaza. If statements like these can be cause for dismissal, no professor is safe. And indeed, the repressive net is cast wider than professors who advocate for Palestinian rights. In fall 2015, Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) adjunct English professor Divya Nair was suspended for participating in a speak-out against police brutality and racism on the CCP campus. And recently, left-wing Drexel University professor George Ciccariello-Maher has come under fire from the right for a satirical tweet about “white genocide.” This panel will discuss the witchunts and what can be done not only to defend professors under attack, but how to connect the fight for academic freedom to other campus-related struggles and other social issues.

Click here to listen to the audio recording of this talk.

On Free Speech and Academic Freedom

By Joan W. Scott


In reply to the current right-wing assault on the academy in the name of free speech, this essay insists on the difference between academic freedom—a protection of faculty rights based on disciplinary competence—and freedom of speech—the right to express one’s ideas, however true or false they may be. Academic freedom defends the pursuit of knowledge, wherever it leads. The pursuit of knowledge is not an elitist activity but a practice vital for the exercise of democracy and the promotion of the common good. Those values—knowledge, democracy, and the common good—must be reasserted in defense of the university and against the anti-intellectualism of the Trump administration.

View the entire article “On Free Speech and Academic Freedom.”