The blog of Academe Magazine. Opinions published here do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.
On March 3-4, students at Harvard are organizing a “One State Conference: Israel/Palestine and the One State Solution.” I don’t want to delve into the charges of bigotry that can be leveled by either side. My concern here is about freedom of speech.
On David Horowitz’s Frontpagemag, Steven Plaut harshly condemned the conference in over-the-top terms, calling it an “academic pogrom” and accusing speakers of “violent bigotry,” whatever that is.
I asked Plaut exactly what he thought Harvard officials should do about the conference, and this was his response: “I think they should deny use of campus facilities to the organizers. Campus facilities are not an entitlement. Let the organizers stand on the street corner and scream their hate. Harvard Square has lots of cafes where they can sit. Let the campus authorities deal with the organizers the same way they would have dealt with pro-Nazi ‘organizers’ on campus after Pearl Harbor.”
In a university committed to academic freedom, access to campus facilities by student groups is an entitlement. It cannot be revoked for ideological reasons without endangering free speech for everyone.
Even if Plaut were right in every detail about the conference (and he plainly is not), he would be wrong on principle. This is not a difficult case at all; conferences should not be banned by administrators, anywhere, ever.
Harvard is under severe pressure to censor. Caroline Glick noted, approvingly, “CAMERA has launched an email campaign to try to fight Harvard’s descent into Jew hating insanity.”
Harvard officials have already criticized the conference. But the call for repression should disturb anyone concerned about academic freedom, no matter what their views on Israel and Palestine. Everyone should defend the right of students to organize a conference and invite the speakers they wish to hear.