[Marxism] Trump Has Signed Orders on Campus Speech and Anti-Semitism. Some Critics See Potential for Conflict.
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Dec 12 06:09:22 MST 2019
(Cary Nelson, who pushed for rescinding Steven Salaita's position at U.
of Illinois, supports Trump.)
Chronicle of Higher Education
Trump Has Signed Orders on Campus Speech and Anti-Semitism. Some Critics
See Potential for Conflict.
By Katherine Mangan DECEMBER 11, 2019 PREMIUM
President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order designed to crack
down on what he sees as rising anti-Semitism on college campuses. The
order, which comes less than a year after his administration issued
another order aimed at protecting free speech, drew mixed responses,
with skeptics seeing the potential for conflict between the two measures.
How, for instance, should a campus respond when white nationalists
declare that “Jews will not replace us,” as they did in 2017 during a
violent confrontation in Charlottesville, Va.? And will colleges that
are worried about running afoul of the latest order be more likely to
punish activists who criticize Israel’s occupation of the West Bank?
Getting those decisions wrong could mean losing a lot of federal money.
Colliding goals are nothing new to colleges that have long sought to
balance the right of free speech with the expectations of a welcoming
climate. But colleges may face even tougher questions about when speech
that offends someone is anti-Semitic and when efforts to restrict such
speech violate the First Amendment.
Trump announced his decision to sign the order in a statement issued by
the White House on Wednesday, saying “the vile, hate-filled poison of
anti-Semitism must be condemned and confronted everywhere and anywhere
In March he issued another order that suggests that money be withheld
from federally funded colleges that fail to promote “free inquiry.” The
purpose, it said, is “to encourage institutions to foster environments
that promote open, intellectually engaging, and diverse debate.”
Wednesday’s order is partly a response to the Boycott, Divestment, and
Sanctions movement, or BDS, which calls on colleges and universities to
take such actions against Israel because of its treatment of
Palestinians. The movement has roiled campuses in recent years and
prompted some Jewish students to say they feel threatened or harassed.
To critics, the latest action represents more unwelcome federal
interference in college affairs. This fall the Trump administration
ordered Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill to revise their joint program in Middle East studies, which it
called biased, in part because it offered too little “positive” imagery
of Judaism and Christianity in the region.
Jewish advocacy groups were divided on Wednesday’s order. The American
Jewish Committee, a global advocacy group, welcomed it. A study
conducted by the committee found that more than a third of Jewish young
people said they had either experienced anti-Semitism on an American
college campus themselves or knew someone who had.
“We trust that a careful application of this directive will enable
university administrators to avoid running afoul of free-speech
protections as they seek to root out anti-Semitism on their campuses,”
the committee’s chief executive, David Harris, said in a written
statement. He added that the committee would speak out against any
attempt “to suppress rational criticism of Israel or its policies.”
Colleges will face tough cases in which they must decide whether speech
is constitutionally protected, he said. “To date, though, responses to
anti-Semitism on many campuses have often fallen short, leaving Jewish
students vulnerable. Existing federal policy has not been fully
enforced, and today’s order merely gives Jews what other groups have
long enjoyed — the right not to be subject to a hostile environment on
Wednesday’s order says that anti-Semitic incidents have increased since
2013, “and students, in particular, continue to face anti-Semitic
harassment in schools and on university and college campuses.”
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “prohibits discrimination on
the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities
receiving federal financial assistance,” the order states. While it
doesn’t specifically cover religious discrimination, “individuals who
face discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin do
not lose protection under Title VI for also being a member of a group
that shares common religious practices,” the order says.
“Discrimination against Jews,” the order continues, “may give rise to a
Title VI violation when the discrimination is based on an individual's
race, color, or national origin. It shall be the policy of the executive
branch to enforce Title VI against prohibited forms of discrimination
rooted in anti-Semitism as vigorously as against all other forms of
discrimination prohibited by Title VI.”
A report in The New York Times on Tuesday alarmed some activists and
groups by saying the order would define Judaism as a “national origin,”
but the official proclamation contains no such language. On Twitter,
reporters said the Times’s description reflected how the White House had
initially portrayed the order.
It instructs agencies to apply the working definition of anti-Semitism
adopted in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance,
which states that anti-Semitism is “a certain perception of Jews, which
may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.”
In determining discriminatory intent, the order calls on agencies to
consider contemporary examples of anti-Semitism identified by IHRA, as
the alliance is called.
On its website the alliance says that “criticism of Israel similar to
that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as
anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to
harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for ‘why things go
wrong.’ It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms, and action,
and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.”
Among the specific examples it spells out are making demeaning or
stereotypical allegations about Jews, including that Jews control the
media and the economy, and denying the scope or intentionality of the
Other examples include “denying the Jewish people their right to
self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of
Israel is a racist endeavor” and comparing contemporary Israeli policy
to that of the Nazis.
The order cautions that “agencies shall not diminish or infringe upon
any right protected under federal law or under the First Amendment.” But
some groups are not convinced that the two orders can coexist without
The American Civil Liberties Union has argued that the Holocaust
alliance’s definition is too broad and that enforcing it could stifle
free speech on college campuses.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, known as FIRE,
agreed. “While the order is couched in language intended to paper over
the readily evident threat to expressive rights, its ambiguous directive
and fundamental reliance on the IHRA definition and its examples will
cause institutions to investigate and censor protected speech on their
campuses,” the foundation said in a written statement.
“Having spent 20 years defending speakers from across the political
spectrum, FIRE knows all too well that colleges and universities will
rush to punish student and faculty speakers in an attempt to avoid
federal investigation and enforcement,” the statement went on.
Sunaina Maira, a professor of Asian American studies at the University
of California at Davis and a leader of the U.S. Campaign for the
Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, said the order poses “a
disturbing challenge to academic freedom as well as for human-rights
The IHRA definition “makes murky distinctions between anti-Semitism and
criticism of the State of Israel,” she wrote in an email.
“U.S. academics have for years been afraid to criticize Israel,” she
wrote, “and an ambiguous definition of anti-Semitism has been used to
shut down human-rights activism and BDS campaigns related to
Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia University, said the order
could exacerbate the tendency to interpret any criticism of Israel as
“If I raise the issue about the annexation of settlements, I am
routinely hammered with criticism of being anti-Semitic,” she said.
“Even if I don’t mention the Jewish people, there is a body of activists
on campus and in well-funded outside organizations who are poised to
describe any criticism of the State of Israel as anti-Semitic.”
With the order, Franke said, “a student could go to the Equal
Opportunity Office and say, ‘Hey, I’m being discriminated against, and
I’m in a hostile environment because people are talking about BDS. If
the university doesn’t do anything about it, it exposes itself to the
potential loss of funding.”
Cary Nelson, an emeritus professor of English at the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who has criticized the boycott movement,
thinks fears that the executive order will squelch academic freedom and
free speech are overblown.
Nelson, who is chairman of the executive committee of the Alliance for
Academic Freedom, says the IHRA definition “can be used to promote
rational discussions of the issues as opposed to emotional arguments
about whether one is or isn’t anti-Semitic.” But relying on the
definition could be messy, he said, because people enforcing it all come
with their own political perspectives.
When it comes to the BDS movement, “we have student debates on campus
that have become increasingly unpleasant —almost unbearable,” Nelson
said. “A competition where everyone’s trying to win as the most
victimized party is awful.”
Katherine Mangan writes about community colleges, completion efforts,
and job training, as well as other topics in daily news. Follow her on
Twitter @KatherineMangan, or email her at katherine.mangan at chronicle.com.
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