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Cleaning out the rot

Reader comment on item: The Rot in Our [Canadian] Universities

Submitted by P Krenkel (United States), Jan 30, 2003 at 14:06

A recent ad in Canadian newspapers stated, "In various parts of the country, an increasing number of students in universities and colleges say that they fear reprisals if they challenge prevailing pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel views. If they argue that Israel has the right to exist, they are often greeted with threats, even physical assault." Incidents leading to the decision to place this ad included the riot at Montreal's Concordia University in September, and the attacks on a student at York University and on a student from McMaster University in Hamilton.

In response to this ad, Jim Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, "said he was not aware of any incidents apart from the ones at Concordia University, where a violent disturbance in September forced the cancellation of a speech by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 'I think people may be making inferences, because I am not aware of any chill or intolerance at universities.'" (National Post, Dec. 18, 2002 http://www.nationalpost.com/national/story.html?id={CB1A1BF2-EF4C-4301-AE23-D20E516398A8} ).

The events this week at York University may be added to the growing list. While York faculty purport to be concerned about racism, intimidation and harassment on their campus, these faculty -- as their colleagues on many campuses in the United States -- believe that only supporters of Israel are racists who intimidate and harass pro-Palestinian activists. How ironic it is that Toronto police warned Dr. Pipes about Canadian hate crime laws, lest he be accused of violating them with his speech!

A York University faculty group, The Coalition for Academic Freedom, refused to meet with Dr. Pipes in protest of his Campus-Watch.org web site, claiming in a press release that Campus Watch is "an organisation that targets academics and institutions who express opinions other than those supported by current US policy in the middle-east. " Obviously, the concept of academic freedom applies only to the views of these faculty.

Such action teaches students a dangerous lesson: no need to debate the issues; just close the door on discourse if one doesn't agree with what the other fellow is saying. Instead of exercising the right to free speech that they claim is in jeopardy, the faculty deems Dr. Pipes, one who attempts to open the classroom doors to dialogue, guilty of denying free speech. Whose speech is being denied?!

And angry mobs of students, emboldened by the example of their faculty, are given even greater power: their actions succeeded in stifling discussion. Although Dr. Pipes' talk was finally allowed to go forward, the circumstances constructively closed the door on the debate by severely limiting the number of attendees by the necessary security arrangements.

I suspect that most readers of this column are not shocked by the display of behavior beyond the bounds of free speech. While we may be greatly saddened and sickened by such events, we should be heartened by the courageous voice of Dr. Pipes and others who continue to swim upstream in an effort to bring attention to the festering situation on campuses in North America. They deserve our thanks and our support.
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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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