YAHALOM SEMINARY Bridging the Gap

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DIVERSITY OF OPINIONS UNDER FIRE ON U.S. CAMPUSES

By: Dave Gordon



Some university students are busy with honing their critical thinking, acquiring new skill sets, or learning about the fine arts. Others, however, are honing ways to squelch what they don’t agree with, and are learning the fine art of shouting down speakers. Today, this has become “normative” campus behavior, near-expected to the extent that virtually anything, or anyone, that represents a right-of-center positioncan be made to feel highly unwelcome at our institutions of higher learning.

Thinking of setting up a pro-Israel booth on campus? Want to wear a Make America Great Again cap to class? Or simply want to question a professor’s premise that harsher gun control in the United States is going to eliminate gun-related homicides? …
Best be prepared for snickering, haranguing, jeering, being interrupted, receiving endless yelling and name calling, or worse – a physical altercation.

All of those examples exist, and exist frequently. Yet they are only a small number of examples regarding how free speech continues to be assaulted on American campuses.

The pillars of critical thinking – conversation, dialogue, exposureto opposing sides, vibrant discussion, and gettingacquainted with another point of view – were once encouraged on university campuses. Now, these have been increasingly done away with. Instead, students and their schools, whether actively or by complicit consent, are squelching disagreement, grooming monolithic thought, and creating an impenetrable bubble of one-sided political beliefs.

In early November Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely was scheduled by the Center for Jewish Life at Princeton University to speak on campus. Pro-Palestinian activists protested so vehemently that the lecture was cancelled, with only one day’s notice. Reports say the university bent to pressure from the Alliance of Jewish Progressives and their allies, led by, of all people, their local Conservative rabbi. Hotovely was to speak at Hillel House. In the end, Hotovely spoke at the Chabad House.

On American campuses these days, there are more and more individuals, be it those in student government, the administration, or groups of students, who mobilize against programmed speakers, insisting that if they are non-leftists, they should be prohibited from speaking.

If these protestors come up short on their goal – to have the speaker banned from campus – they resort to the threat of violence. This frequently means hiring additional and expensive security personnel to keep the speaker safe.

Certainly, if the speakers manage to arrive on campus unscathed and are permitted to talk, these speakers can fully anticipate large doses of jeers, heckles, and screams.

At the University of Chicago, political analyst and human-rights advocate Bassem Eid’s speech was heckled frequently. Eid, himself Palestinian, was seen as too “pro-Israel” for the crowd. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was forced by protestors at the University of San Francisco to end his event early.

California State University at Los Angeles last year tried to revoke the invitation of right-leaning author and broadcaster Ben Shapiro from speaking, but switched gears when Shapiro threatened legal action.

As an aside, Shapiro has chronicled scores of examples of
hate-fuelled protests and university-led squelching of free speech.
He is the author of bestselling Bullies: How the Left’s Fear of Culture and Intimidation Silences Americans, and Brainwashed:
How Universities Indoctrinate American Youth.

Conservatives are far less likely to get liberal speakers kicked off campus than liberals are for conservative speakers. This dovetails with a recent survey from Morning Consult/Politico that noted that students who identified as Democrats are 41 percent in favor of barring speakers who say things that are perceived to be “offensive,” versus 29 percent of students who identify
as Republicans.

A name you’ll see often in disinvitations, or associated with wild protests, is Milo Yiannopolous – who the media call a “right-wing provocateur.” Part of his bread and butter is touring campuses, invited by various right leaning campus groups, to come and speak.
To name a few incidents, Yiannopolous has been disinvited from NYU, a number of University of California campuses, DePaul, University of Miami, and that’s just in the last year or so.

At University of California, Berkley, the protest began
February 1stwhen Yainnopoulos was scheduled to speak. This spilled over into later events (March 4th, April 15thand 27th, August 27th, and much of September).

These clashes have been the most violent of recent campus protests, resulting in several physical assaults and millions of dollars in property damage.

Yainnopoulos, who is not shy about speaking of his Jewish background, was finally able to speak at Berkley, but he was loudly shouted down by protesters, and did not stay long.

Earlier in the year protests erupted at NYU in response to invited speaker, broadcaster, and journalist Gavin McInnis. His brand of humor, hardline viewpoints, and brash talk isn’t for everyone; and assuredly, it might not have been helpful for some that he joined colleagues on a recent pro-Zionist media delegation to Israel.

Many students were apparently outraged by his invitation, and issued a call to act via Twitter and Facebook for anyone else opposed to McInnis’ world view to come and make it known. Eleven people were arrested for various offenses during the event. The unrest forced McInnis to leave the podium, and he did not return.

Most recently, Dennis Prager, the Brooklyn-bred nationally syndicated radio host and bestselling author, was invited to speak at the Univeristy of Wyoming on November 9th. He was invited by theUniversity of Wyoming chapter of Turning Point USA, an educational non-profit organization.
His topic was “Why Socialism Makes People Selfish.” Not unexpectedly, the student government – and other students – led a protest to shut down the event. They accused Prager of being hateful, sexist, Islamophobic, racist, and most peculiarly, a neo-Nazi. Of course, Prager is none of these things.

Prager asserts that for someone to try to strong-arm university officials and administrators to cancel a talk, for no other reason than the speaker holds right-wing views, is one of the most illiberal acts one can do.

“Liberals have always embraced the competition of ideas, and believed that if their idea is the best, it will ultimately win the day. But liberalism has essentially died on American campuses –
killed by leftists,” Prager said in a statement.

His plan for the talk was to address the audience “in the same respectful and rational manner I have always spoken,” vowing to take questions and challenges that students pose, and by doing so, “promise that most students will wonder why anyone at their university called me a bigot and a hater.”

How ironic that Prager was visiting the university in part to film his speech for his Dangerous Documentaries feature film, No Safe Spaces, which is about theassault on free speech on college campuses. Attempting to banish Prager from the campus for having traditional conservative views seems to prove the thesis of the film: young Americans need to be more accepting of diverse viewpoints. This seems to be rareon American campuses today.