Photo Credit:
Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts

{Originally posted on Gatestone Institute website}



Why are some students doing this? Because they can. No one is stopping them. There is no accountability and no cost — either to them or to the people failing to educate them. Bad behavior is rewarded; it is allowed to go on.

Will self-declared jihadis and other “speech police” decide what is, and what is not, allowed to be discussed and taught in Western universities?

Is education now about instilling fear?

The first amendment right should not extend to depriving others of their first amendment right.

What criteria had the professor used — and for that matter Europe — to determine that Hamas was not a terrorist group, as opposed to the criteria used by the government of the United States to determine that, in fact, it was?

Academic freedom in the West is usually a given — or was.

Recently, however, American universities have been allowing students to shout down speakers, “disinvite” others, and punish — or threaten to punish — students simply for respectfully expressing their views. These curtailments of academic freedom and free speech place apparently take place without any consequences for those who curtail, agitate or disrupt. Ironically, often the very people who shut down free speech are treated as free speech heroes.

The latest display of (repeated) extremely questionable, if not illegal, judgment by a college administration involved an academic assault by the Dean of Students at Brandeis University, Jamele Adams, on an honor-roll senior, Daniel Mael.[1] “They try,” Mael said, “to intimidate students into being silent, in the interest of people’s feelings not being hurt, rather than encourage debate.”

These problems, unfortunately, seem to be widespread. Academic freedom, although sometimes abused, was originally provided, including tenure, to give scholars the right to communicate ideas freely, without retaliation, even if these ideas are sometimes viewed as “inconvenient.”

Recently, however, there has been a change. Academic freedom in the West has been shrinking to a point where in places it barely exists. Students, chosen so carefully, supposedly come to learn, but lately seem to have been trying to take over the house — too often, sadly, with the complicity of the administrations.

Speakers are not only “disinvited,” they are shouted into silence or swooshed off the stage. Who is allowing this behavior?

At a University of Massachusetts Amherst rally even a few years ago, you could see the hatred and rage in the eyes of the cowardly, masked demonstrators calling for the destruction of Israel. Many were obviously not students at all, and many not young and impressionable. They seemed to have been brought in just to yell slogans and frighten everyone.

Many, however, who did appear to be students, based on what was said had no knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict itself, but seemed to have come just to demonstrate against Israel. Many even seemed good, overachieving children from liberal, upper middle class homes, who had just tagged along, but had no idea what to do in the face of genuine threats of violence. They seemed mostly worried about their grades.

This time, however, on a recent book tour through North America, there were guards in the hall, “to keep order,” they said.

“Why would you need to ‘keep order?'” I said. “Is this some East Asian dictatorship?”

They said that at times opposition groups started violent demonstrations, either to make sure that events did not take place; or, if they did, to silence the speaker and frighten everyone in the university so that no one holding those views would ever speak there again.

It was censorship, it was authoritarian, and it was not what you would expect in the West from a place of higher learning, or any learning.

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Anat Berko, Ph.D, a Lt. Col. (Res) in the Israel Defense Forces, conducts research for the National Security Council, and is a research fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Israel. She was a visiting professor at George Washington University and has written two books about suicide bombers, "The Path to Paradise," and the recently released, "The Smarter Bomb: Women and Children as Suicide Bombers" (Rowman & Littlefield)