New York, NY – September 4, 2014
CONTACT: Professor Cary Nelson
212 366-1194 (After hours 347-583-7277)
Case Raises Troubling Trend at N. American Universities
As progressive and liberal academics committed to the protection of academic freedom and who reject the view that one cannot be both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian simultaneously, we note with alarm a recent incident at Temple University in which a Jewish student was assaulted.
Although not all the facts are known, it is clear that the incident grew out of a verbal confrontation regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that abusive and hateful words were said.
We are encouraged that Temple’s administration, Temple Hillel, the student body president, and the university’s department of religion have all made statements underscoring the importance of respectful discourse.
We hope that when the investigation is completed, there will be appropriate punishment and remediation.
The AAC firmly believes that speech on campus of students and faculty must be protected, including when it deals with hotly contested or controversial issues.
We also believe – especially in the wake of passions stirred by recent events in the Middle East – that all college campuses across North America should work to encourage students to remain respectful of one another even as they engage in difficult discussions. Passionate advocacy is a part of college life; violence, harassment, intimidation and hate should never be. If individuals on college campuses are threatened because of what they believe, who they are, what they wear, or what they say, academic freedom itself is endangered because instead of engagement with ideas, there is fear and silence.
We call on universities to investigate their campus climate. Data such as anonymous student surveys can help academic institutions forge a learning environment that is welcoming to students of all views and perspectives.
We also encourage faculty, advisors, administrators, and staff to empower and train students to engage productively in dialogue especially with those who hold perspectives different from their own. Universities need to model and educate students about the importance of civil discourse and co-existence.