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The Villages
Friday, May 24, 2024

Appalling and frightening behavior on college campuses

What is going on on college campuses today is appalling and frightening. Colleges and universities must protect free speech, but there are limits. For example, you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater. There must be some other limits as well and that includes speech promoting violence.

As Diane Ravitch said so eloquently in her recent blog: “The purpose of a college education is to teach critical thinking, to exemplify the value of reasoned debate, to maintain civility when there are strong disagreements, to be open to learning.”

Earlier this week, Columbia University announced that it is offering online classes because the campus is unsafe for learning, especially for Jewish students. This is outrageous. Campuses must be safe places for all students and faculty. Civility matters.

Pro-Palestinian students should argue their cause without shutting down discussion and threatening Jewish students. Closing down debate, antagonizing those who disagree, creating a climate in which “academic freedom” is used to negate academic freedom is simply wrong.

We have heard repeatedly since Oct. 7 that expressions and behavior that are anti-Israel are not anti-Semitic. But the widespread harassment of Jewish students, even Jewish faculty, gives the lie to this claim. Such harassment is anti-Semitic.

I deplore the barbarism of Oct. 7. I deplore the brutality of the war in Gaza and the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians. I hope that peace negotiations bring about a just peace.

I also deplore the surge of Jew-hatred on American campuses. Jewish students and all other students, as well as Jewish faculty and all faculty, should be able to learn and teach without fearing for their safety.

Colleges and universities must establish rules that promote and protect civility. Students who harass and endanger others cancel the purpose of higher education. They should be warned and if they persist, they should be suspended, and if they continue in their actions, expelled.

Susan Koffman is a resident of the Village of Santo Domingo.

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