Ivy League presidents invoke free speech to defend anti-Jewish protests, but they have treated conservatives differently.
by Brandon Poulter
The presidents of three elite universities invoked free speech principles Tuesday when questioned about genocidal chants on their campuses, but often disciplined conservatives for much less.
Harvard President Claudine Gay, University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) President Liz Magill and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) President Sally Kornbluth refused to answer whether or not calls for genocide of the Jewish people violated their schools’ codes of conduct. Though they invoked free speech principles to defend their pro-Palestinian students, they often go after conservative speech both on and off campus.
“These college presidents would correctly never hesitate to condemn harassment against and physical attacks on African-American students, yet they seem to lose this moral clarity and clear understanding of their obligations under federal civil rights laws when it comes to Jewish students,” Bob Eitel, Defense of Freedom Institute president and co-founder, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“The failure of these presidents to state, without equivocation, that calling for the genocide of Jews violates their codes of conduct demonstrates that these institutions are no longer the “elite” schools they imagine themselves to be. Higher education leaders such as these have been all too eager to censor conservatives on campus while allowing Hamas supporters to cause chaos and threaten physical harm,” Eitel continued.
More than 30 student organizations at Harvard signed a letter blaming Israel for the Hamas terrorist attacks in October. Gay released a statement on Oct. 10 saying that student groups don’t speak for Harvard but that they have a “right to speak.”
But Harvard and other colleges often punish students and professors for speech and actions on and off campus.
Harvard rescinded an admissions offer in 2019 to Kyle Kashuv, a shooting survivor and gun rights activist, because of alleged racist comments made when he was 16- years -old, according to the Harvard Crimson. The university also ousted law professor Ronald Sullivan from his administrative position following his representation of Harvey Weinstein in court, according to WGBH.
Feminist philosopher Devin Buckley was disinvited in 2022 because of her views on trans issues, according to the National Review. Buckley previously expressed that a man cannot become a woman.
“Double standards at universities are pervasive and well-documented. Bias response teams spring into action to fight so-called microaggressions and Halloween costumes but stand by when anti-Israel students chant in favor of murderers of Jews,” Adam Kissel, visiting fellow of higher education reform at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, told the DCNF.
UPenn initiated disciplinary actions against professor Amy Wax in 2022 over speech the university claimed was “antithetical to the University’s mission,” according to Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE). Wax previously said that gay people are not fit to be parents and that affirmative action leaves black people unprepared for college, among other things.
Hundreds of students walked out of UPenn in October in support of Palestinians, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Penn Against the Occupation, a pro-Palestinian student group, participated in the walkout and advocated for Hamas terrorists, calling them “martyrs,” according to an Instagram post.
MIT disinvited Dorian Abbot, a geophysicist at the University of Chicago, because he criticized affirmative action, according to The New York Times.
A new survey of over 2,000 college students released Wednesday revealed that 1 in 10 students had been punished for speech, according to FIRE.
“When students are as likely to be punished for their speech as they are to be left-handed, the situation on campus is clearly out of hand,” Sean Stevens, FIRE director of polling and analytics, said in a Wednesday press release. “And worse, this will have a snowball effect, because students whose peers are censored will be more likely to keep their mouths shut.”
Harvard and UPenn had six and nine attempted deplatformings in 2022, respectively, including calls to sanction students and campaigns to disinvite speakers from campus, according to FIRE. Harvard ranked dead last in an analysis of free speech on campuses by FIRE, and UPenn ranked right above them at second to last.
A conservative student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison told the DCNF conservatives also suffer discrimination on his campus due to their political beliefs.
“At UW Madison, conservatives are treated differently, graded differently, and expected to be quiet in the face of blatant discrimination,” Harrison Wells, a student at University Wisconsin at Madison and chair of the UW Madison Young Americans Foundation (YAF) chapter, told the DCNF.
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