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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.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Some Distinctions, Please:
  2. UC Irvine Chancellor Speaks Up for Free Speech:
tsotha:
Sure, it sounds right. It would even be right if that were the (unwritten) policy. But everyone knows what you can and can't say, and there are groups you can't get away with offending.

It's not unreasonable for Jewish groups to think they merit the same protection as other factions.
5.31.2007 6:16pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Michael Drake wasn't chancellor then, but in 2003 Irvine infamous shut down an "affirmative action bake sale." One hopes he would be at least (given that I don't think the latter is 'hate speech') as tolerant of such speech.
5.31.2007 6:33pm
Freddy Hill:
Wow, this is wonderful, a chancellor that is willing to speak out against speech codes. I wonder if he would have been so contundent if his interlocutors had threatened riots and violence.
5.31.2007 6:34pm
Californio (mail):
The test will be when a speaker perceived as "anti-Muslim" talks at UCI. Surely, no "direct action" to prevent his speaking would be tolerated, correct?
5.31.2007 6:44pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Hmm, this seems rather lame (from the OC Register): "Why is it that you personally don't exercise your right to free speech and speak directly to statements made on campus?"

[Drake] "We have 1,000 guest speakers on campus every year. Could I evaluate them and say this one is anti-Semitic? I could not. What I could say is that as a person and a campus, we abhor hate speech, period."

I don't think there's a chancellor/college president in the U.S. who would have trouble condemning a specific speaker who uttered other kinds of racist remarks. I haven't followed the Irvine controversy closely enough to have a well-informed opinion on whether speakers have been making anti-Semitic comments, but if they have, this does seem like a lame evasion. In general, I think university presidents should refrain from commenting on student-sponsored events, but the policy should be consistent regardless.
5.31.2007 6:47pm
ejo:
does "free speech" mean you have to provide a forum for holocaust denial conferences? KKK meetings?
5.31.2007 6:48pm
elChato (mail):
I wonder if he would have been so contundent if his interlocutors had threatened riots and violence.

In such a case he'd be positively scrumulescent!
5.31.2007 6:52pm
ejo:
of those 1000 speakers, how many preach death to jews or genocide? if the number is so high he can't keep track well enough to confront, he might want to figure out why. a whiny free speech diatribe in the face of specific racist speakers seems both cowardly and useless.
5.31.2007 6:58pm
neurodoc:
EV: University chancellors may (and should) protect even speech they abhor, and distinguish protected speech from unprotected violence

So as long as the conduct does not cross the line of criminally actionable, it is acceptable on campus? Feeling menaced or threatened is not by itself sufficient grounds for criminal prosecution, therefore the school will remain "neutral" in the face of such? Not my notion of what is proper for a university campus, private or public.

It is a fundamental principle of our system of justice that that which will be counted as criminal must be specifiable and specified in clear, understandable, and unequivocal terms, so that individuals may be forewarned as to what may put them in legal jeopardy. Campuses ought not permit all that is not frankly criminal. It may be harder to define what is and is not to be acceptable within the academic community than to say what is and what is not criminal, but that doesn't mean that it is wrong or futile to try discouraging, and even punish, that which may take place on campus though it has not been spelled out with the same degree of precision that we require of criminal statutes.

If some in the academic community feel that they cannot express themselves freely or that it would be unwise for themselves to express themselves freely and it is not because they are unduly sensitive or fearful, then the school administration should be doing something other than espousing libertarian platitudes, bogus "academic freedom" claims, and the like.

"If Jewish students are assaulted or threatened for being Jewish or pro-Israel (or anything else), that should be punished...." That needs to be said?

"But expression of anti-Semitic views should remain protected, just as expression of other views should remain protected." How about that which goes beyond mere "expression" of such views, though it stops short of actual assaults and clearly articulated threats? Same answers for campuses as for the streets? I think not.
5.31.2007 7:07pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Do we have any examples of punishment of anti-Jewish activity?
5.31.2007 7:07pm
John425:
And a blind eye will be turned when "speech" turns into advocacy of murder and annihilation.
5.31.2007 7:21pm
neurodoc:
Also, the LA Times article is notably vague about why exactly the Jewish community, and EV has skipped the little that is there that hints at it:


UCI campus Rabbi Yonah Bookstein said Jewish students are harassed for expressing support for Israel and for being unabashedly Jewish. "It doesn't work the other way," he said. "You don't find Muslim students harassed by Jewish students. There's a climate of fear at UCI for Jews."

Drake assured the audience that UCI was a safe campus for all students and a place where tolerance is practiced. Not everyone was convinced.

"I can't decide if he doesn't get it or if he's in denial," community member Richard Meyers said. "He 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."
(emphasis added)

Are Jewish students "being harassed for expressing support for Israel and for being unabashedly Jewish," or doesn't it matter since that probably would not be criminally prosecutable and other than criminally prosecutable is going to be allowed, if not countenanced? Do Jewish students at UCI have reason to be fearful, or is that a "subjective" question that need not be considered, since again if no actual assaults or clear threats, the UCI administration's hands-off approach is a proper one.

If this is the direction UCI is taking, then it may be that they will have little to offset the "honor" of having graduated the Jonestown physician. (Yeah, something of a cheap shot, but not wholly unwarranted.)

EV is pretty absolutist when it comes to matters of "academic freedom." Does he think there can be true "academic freedom" on a campus where members of the community have reason to be fearful of others in the same community?
5.31.2007 7:24pm
neurodoc:
edit error. That should have been:

Neurodoc: Also, the LA Times article is notably vague about why exactly the Jewish community is aroused and concerned, and EV has skipped the little that is there that hints at it:
5.31.2007 7:27pm
Cato:
Let's through an anti-Muslim rally, profaning the Prophet and saying that they live and die like flies and see what the Chancellor says about that.
5.31.2007 7:55pm
Mac (mail):
Uh, Cato, great idea except are you sure any of us would come out alive if not unscathed? I'm not.
5.31.2007 8:12pm
EH:
The hysteria is deafening (blinding?) in this thread.
5.31.2007 8:23pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
I have a hard time believing that if you were to substitute the word "blacks" for "Jews" in this whole fact pattern, the reaction of the chancellor wouldn't have been very, very different. We'd be having a parade of sensitivity training, at a bare minimum.
5.31.2007 8:40pm
Curt Fischer:
An interesting choice by the LA Times reporter is the use of the words "seen by some". Does the full article quote any of the utterances that offend and tyrannize the Jewish community so? [I am not registered on latimes.com and cannot read the whole article.]
5.31.2007 8:42pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
ejo: Yes, see Rosenberger v. Rector (1995), reaffirming that when the university opens up a forum -- whether access to university property or even to university funding -- that's generally available to student groups, it may not exclude speakers based on their viewpoints.

neurodoc: As I said, the University surely should punish violence and threats. But if one feels "threatened" simply because people express bigoted viewpoints -- or even viewpoints that endorse violence in certain circumstances -- the University may not try to remove this threat by suppressing the speech.

I didn't mention Rabbi Bookstein's statement that "Jewish students are harassed for expressing support for Israel and for being unabashedly Jewish" because "harassed" can cover a wide range of actions, from threats or violence to public criticism or disagreement. My view, as I noted in the article, is that "[i]f Jewish students are assaulted or threatened for being Jewish or pro-Israel (or anything else), that should be punished," but I'd be skeptical of attempts to suppress "harassment" as opposed to assault or threats.
5.31.2007 8:42pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
PatHMV: Maybe the chancellor wouldn't equally protect the free speech right to express anti-black views. But he should protect it. I'm not willing to fault him for protecting anti-Semitic speech on the assumption that he wouldn't protect anti-black speech, unless there's some pretty concrete evidence as to this Chancellor backing up that assumption.
5.31.2007 8:44pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
neourdoc:

If the problem is that Jewish students are being harrassed, maybe that's what UCI should be addressing. I have no idea whether this is / isn't a real problem at UCI, but I cannot see how suppressing speech on the subject of Israel addresses the problem meaningfully.

Actually, neurodoc, a lot of "harrassment" is criminally prosecutable. Use of an ethnic slur, for example, would in some circumstances be enough for a disorderly conduct charge. I don't know California law, but thats the law in Oregon, and there's not problem with it under the US Constitution. Similarly, defacing signs and other minor league "direct action" stuff. On the other hand, if the "harrassment" is simply being exposed to people disagreeing with a student's public expressions of opinion, seems to me that's perfectly fair.
5.31.2007 8:47pm
The Drill SGT:
I'm a graduate of UCI (MBA 79 for public consumption) (and MSA(B) for UCI insiders), though I took 10 of my classes at UCLA and 13 at UCI. Army sent me to grad school for 18 months(2 UCLA Summer qtrs). Anyway, I follow UCI events more than most. UCI has a terrible track record on Islamic radical MSA activities.

Now consider their sister campus at UCR where the Chancellor there:

n a powerful blow to the anti-Israel movement on American campuses, the University of California at Riverside has canceled the Fifth Annual International Al Awda Conference that was scheduled to take place there on the weekend of May 24-26th. This marks only the second time that an American university has declined unconditionally to host an anti-Jewish hate fest that masquerades as an educational event about the Middle East (the other campus being Rutgers University in New Jersey in 2003). Such a cancellation comes on the heels of a new ruling by the US Civil Rights Commission that anti-Semitism on campuses has been masquerading as discussion of the Middle East.

The Chancellor there used his power and required the MSA to accept 3 rules if they wanted to hold there little anti-semitic rally.

1. It had to be open to all
2. UC Police would be the only security. No local thugs
3. Cameras and tape recorders were encouraged.

The MSA decided to fold their tent and slink off. Why can UCR do what UCI seems unable to manage? Leadership.

UCR Event

I told them that UCI doesn't get a dime from me until they get their act together.
5.31.2007 9:12pm
The Drill SGT:
their

I hate no edit function
5.31.2007 9:13pm
pete (mail) (www):
There have been incidents of violence by muslims against non muslims at UCI including throwing a cinderblock at an FBI agent's car, muslim students disrupted Daniels Pipes speech, student housing was defaced with swastikas, and here is a rather hateful speech called "Israel the 4th Reich" by Amir Abdel Malik Ali sponsored by the campus Muslim Student Union.

For those interested in what the chancellor is defending, here is a video of one of the events where the speaker blames Jews for 9/11 and where the blogger doing the videotaping is thrown out when discovered. The blogger was also followed by and assaulted by Muslims after they found out he was video taping the event.
5.31.2007 9:54pm
Hattio (mail):
Neurodoc says;

Feeling menaced or threatened is not by itself sufficient grounds for criminal prosecution, therefore the school will remain "neutral" in the face of such?


But that is eliding an important distinction. The question is whether a person feels reasonably threatened (at least under AK law, and I'm sure CA law is similar). And EV makes this important distinction. If the anti-semitism is reaching the point of threats etc., it can and should be prosecuted. If people feel threatened unreasonably (even if the comments causing a person to feel threatened are anti-semitic) it should be allowed for free speech. Somebody saying that they hate jews (or even that they wish all jews were dead) is very different from saying that they hate jews and are going to do something about it. It goes without saying that saying Israel is evil (or even that it should be wiped off the map) doesn't qualify. Even assuming a person living in Israel could reasonably be afraid, the other member of the UCI community are, by definition, living in or near UCI.
5.31.2007 10:29pm
Russ (mail):
I agree that the Chancellor should protect free speech, but the problem is that he is not consistent with it.

I bet that if the Jewish students held a rally entitled "Islam - A Religion of Peace, and We'll Kill You to Prove it," his protection and tolerance wouldn't extend so far.
5.31.2007 10:40pm
neurodoc:
pete, unless you can prove to the requisite degree of certainty, that is "beyond a reasonable shadow of doubt" that there were actual physical assaults or other criminal conduct, then you are singing off key here. The absolutist libertarian line is that nothing is very special about a university campus and that which wouldn't be prosecutable as a crime were it to take place off campus shouldn't be prohibited on campus, or even actively discouraged by the school's administration. Don't ask me how that squares with any reasonable notion of "academic freedom," since I don't understand how there can be true "academic freedom" when some members of the academic community are afraid to speak up.

I am surprised by the stubborn refusal of some, especially EV to acknowledge what I believe to be the reality of what goes on at places like UCI (and San Diego State, San Francisco State, Wayne State, etc.), with this insistence that their must be frankly criminal conduct, or something very close thereto, before complaints of "harassment" will be given any credence. Ideologies or political philosophies, whether libertarian or any other kind, that can't accommodate themselves to real life situations, holds no appeal to me.

PDXLawyer, you're making a self-evidently strawman argument with "harassment" as being "exposed to people disagreeing with a student's public expressions of opinion." I don't know who amongst us would be expressing the concerns we are expressing if they believed for a moment that this is what it all reduced to. Being "exposed to people disagreeing with (one's) public expressions of opinion" is part and parcel of the educational process on campus; being discouraged from "public expressions of opinion" because of intimidation by other members of the academic community or outsiders invited into the academic community is not, and school administrators have a duty to see that it does not happen in their midst.

If the problem is that Jewish students are being harrassed, maybe that's what UCI should be addressing. I have no idea whether this is / isn't a real problem at UCI, but I cannot see how suppressing speech on the subject of Israel addresses the problem meaningfully.
Let's be clear, I do not propose "suppressing speech on the subject of Israel."
5.31.2007 10:53pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Eugene, I agree with you that this is the tack he should take in all such situations, regardless of whether the hateful speech is aimed at black people, white people, Jews, Muslims, Christians, homosexuals, whomever. I'm just not as sanguine about what he would do if a different group was the target. I certainly hope he would, but I'd also watch very carefully to see what he does when some different group comes under attack in the future.
6.1.2007 12:20am
Johnnypeepers (mail):
Unfortunately, our Muslim friends have Supreme Court double-standard precedent on their side regarding free-speech prohibition. In Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, words "which by their very utterance... tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace" are unprotected. As evidenced by the Danish Muhammed(PBUH)cartoon fiasco, and the ensuing waves of violence and death, speech directed at the prophet or certain tenets of Islamic faith might undergo stricter scrutiny in the public square due to the impact on the addressee.
6.1.2007 12:45am
A. Zarkov (mail):
The Chancellor has just given the Muslims a green light to harass, threaten and perhaps even attack Jewish students. I expect UCI will do virtually nothing to protect the Jews. They must do it themselves. That means standing up to threats, and meeting violence with violence if necessary. Krav Maga Irvine.
6.1.2007 1:56am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Johnnypeepers: Later cases, such as Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971), have fortunately limited Chaplinsky to individualized face-to-face insults, and held that speech that may offend listeners but isn't directed at them personally is protected.

A. Zarkov: How is saying that "Unlike speech, ... violent acts are not protected" giving Muslims a green light to attack Jewish students? As to true threats, they technically are speech, but they fall within a long-recognized exception to the First Amendment, and I don't read the Chancellor's statements as covering such constitutionally unprotected speech. As to "harassing," I never know what that term means, and am thus suspicious of calls to restrict "harassing" speech.

Nor do I see why we should expect UCI to do virtually nothing to protect students from threats and attacks. I agree, though, that being able to physically defend yourself is good.
6.1.2007 2:41am
LM (mail):
EV:

PatHMV: Maybe the chancellor wouldn't equally protect the free speech right to express anti-black views. But he should protect it. I'm not willing to fault him for protecting anti-Semitic speech on the assumption that he wouldn't protect anti-black speech, unless there's some pretty concrete evidence as to this Chancellor backing up that assumption.


Though I share your take on only about 50% of the issues, I'm a 100% fan of your commitment to intellectual honesty. Thanks, and keep it up.
6.1.2007 3:16am
A. Zarkov (mail):
EV:

You are absolutely correct if we take the Chancellor at his word. You are absolutely correct from a legal standpoint. But how are the Muslim students going to interpret the Chancellor? We've heard for years from university administrators about the need to protect students from a "hostile educational atmosphere." The VC's own David Bernstein covered this subject in chapter 6 of his book, You Can't Say That! Now Chancellor Drake comes along and says in effect, "hate speech is free speech," and the Jews will just have to put up with it. Now if UCI really does discipline Muslim students for assaulting and violent behavior by expelling them, I'll believe the Chancellor is really trying to reform the outrageous system of campus speech codes. But I'm not holding my breath. Let's recall the incident at Columbia University when the "Minuteman Forum" was disrupted by students screaming "hate speech is not free speech." Did they finally get punished? Yes, but only slightly. Three students received a "censure," which amounts to very little, unless the students again violate university rules. Columbia will remove the censure from the students' records at graduation. That's it-- not much of a punishment in my opinion.

Don't be surprised if you see open season on the Jews at UCI in the future.
6.1.2007 9:41am
occidental tourist (mail):

FIRE salutarily reports remarks by the vice-chancellor of UCI on the issue of campus speech - albeit this citation is contrasted with earlier efforts to censor an affirmative action bake sale on campus. Nonetheless, there are no reports following the bake sale incident in Sept. 2003, of a lack of evenhandedness in upholding free speech commitments.

According to CNN, the Muhammed cartoons were displayed and discussed on campus at the end of February 2006, apparently without administrative intervention and with some institutional coordination to prevent the hecklers' veto as 200 were reported to have protested the event and 2 people removed by police.

I would be profoundly interested to hear the subtleties of the apparent allegations that jews are harrassed, threatened or silenced at UCI. I'm not saying I'm incredulous this could be happening, despite the College Republicans prevailing in holding the two events I mentioned above.

There may be some environmental responses that tend to chill opposing speech to these confabs on how lousy Israel is, but I haven't seen any evidence that it rises to the point of actual threats with the exception of Pete's comments on the putative assault on someone videotaping a conference at which someone allegedly blames jews for 9/11.

I am a bit surprised that there are not links to some documentation of the problems the videotaper experienced and any complaints to the University, but this reaction to someone perceived to be a 'spy', in the sense that they did not agree with the presentation or were not there to consider it with an open mind and rather were documenting the nature of the discussion for use as criticism, if actually true as described does rise to the level of assault.

I would be interested in discussion of the reasonability/constitutionality of preemptive conditions intended to frustrate such reactions Drill SGT reports being attached to a similar event at UC Riverside that apparently lead to its cancellation:


1. It had to be open to all
2. UC Police would be the only security. No local thugs
3. Cameras and tape recorders were encouraged.





I imagine the bit about local thugs is an embellishment in terms of the explicit conditions. But on its face, this policy, if evenly applied, doesn't seem obnoxious.

There is nothing to prevent folks who informally want to nurture their personal beliefs in some private conclave, but if they are publicizing the event and using campus facilities, then their ability to exclude is perhaps properly open to question -- albeit if couched in a religious context this could be a more complicated issue than it seems.

Do campus worship groups have to include any comers? Would this be a problem vis-a-vis the UCR policy? I believe there have been acceptable cases where college religious groups ask members to adhere to central beliefs but I am not sure this would conflict with a policy related to events promoted to non-members. Of course insisting on these requirements for membership would be different from an event designed to proselytize or recruit members.

In any event the particular event mentioned in EV's original post, "Israel: Apartheid Resurrected," does not appear to seek the religious cloak of a believers meeting and I would imagine that the UCR rules would be fair with respect to such gatherings.

Brian
6.1.2007 9:43am