UC Irvine Chancellor Speaks Up for Free Speech:

The L.A. Times reports:

UC Irvine Chancellor Michael V. Drake ... tried to explain [Wednesday] that campus events seen by some as anti-Semitic are actually expressions of constitutionally protected free speech.

Drake met with more than 600 members of the county's Jewish community who expressed concern about what they perceived as anti-Semitic activity on campus, much of it involving Muslim students....

UCI has become a flashpoint in the national Israeli-Arab debate that has created hard feelings between Muslims and Jews. This month, Muslim students on campus sponsored a presentation, "Israel: Apartheid Resurrected," protesting that country's policies toward Palestinians.

It was the latest in a series of events that have sparked tension between the groups on campus, with some Jewish students complaining that the exhibit relayed a message of anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews.

On Wednesday, Drake heard complaints that Jewish students were afraid to be on campus and was challenged repeatedly to draw a line between free speech and hate speech. But he said it was an impractical and impossible assignment.

"Free speech means simply that: free speech," he told one questioner.

To another, he said: "Speech is protected. It can be hateful. It can be wrong. It can be vile." Unlike speech, he added, violent acts are not protected.

The chancellor repeatedly said he found anti-Semitism abhorrent, calling it "the utterance of fools." But he also said the right of free speech allows Muslim students to sponsor speakers with whom he disagrees....

Sounds exactly right to me. If Jewish students are assaulted or threatened for being Jewish or pro-Israel (or anything else), that should be punished -- and if UCI isn't using adequate efforts to do this, then it should be faulted for that. But expression of anti-Semitic views should remain protected, just as expression of other views should remain protected.

As to the quote from "community member Richard Meyers" -- "[The Chancellor] keeps saying that he abhors hate speech, but he's unwilling to take a position on the issue of what to do about anti-Semitic activity" -- it sounds to me like the Chancellor (1) does abhor hate speech, (2) does take a position for punishing anti-Semitic violence, and (3) does take a position against punishing anti-Semitic speech. And these items are perfectly consistent: University chancellors may (and should) protect even speech they abhor, and distinguish protected speech from unprotected violence.

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