Saturday, March 07, 2009

A Double Standard for Campus Free Speech

In what is yet more evidence that universities have become, as Abigail Thernstrom has described them, "islands of repression in a sea of freedom," Toronto's York University witnessed a near riot of some 100 pro-Palestinian Israel-haters, as police had to be called to usher Jewish students to safety after they had been barricaded inside the Hillel@York offices and were "isolated and threatened" by the physically and verbally aggressive demonstrators.

York, one of Canada's largest universities, also has a sizable Jewish student population, but that has not served to diffuse what has become an increasingly volatile, and distressing, problem on its campus, one that raises issues about what is acceptable behavior and discourse at universities worldwide. Universities, of course, have well-articulated regulations that supposedly define student behavior and place limits of speech and actions that might shatter what administrators like to refer to as the "civility" of the campus community. York's own student code of conduct, for instance, specifically prohibits "threats of harm, or actual harm, to a person's physical or mental wellbeing," including "verbal and non-verbal aggression . . . verbal abuse; intimidation; [and] harassment"-all of which were clearly violated by the demonstrators' physically intimidating protests.

More troubling is the invidious language used in this event, mirroring a surge of unbridled Jew-hatred manifested on campuses, as well as on city streets, worldwide since Israel's recent defensive incursions into Gaza. Parroting the morally incoherent and factually defective exhortations of Israel-haters elsewhere of "Zionism equals racism!" and "Racists off campus!," the York mob, members of both the York Federation of Students and Students Against Israeli Apartheid, demonstrated once again that what is positioned as "intellectual debate" on campuses about the Israeli/Palestinian issue has devolved into something that is not really a conversation at all; rather, it is something more akin to an ideologically-driven shout fest in which pro-Palestinians, employing a revisionist history in which the dark-skinned, third-world Arabs are the long-standing victims of white, European, colonial Zionists, have escalated the debate far beyond discussion of borders, refugee status, and the rights of both Jews and Arabs to self-determination, statehood, and peaceful coexistence.

So now, supporters of the cult of Palestinianism apparently no longer feel even a bit uncomfortable voicing what is actually on their minds when the subject of Israel comes up: when the York Hillel students were trapped inside of locked offices, surrounded by an increasingly violent and aggressive mob, the intellectual "debate" that day included such invidious and raw slurs as "Die bitch-go back to Israel" and "Die Jew-get the hell off campus." The most vicious anti-Semites have of late been able to conveniently inoculate themselves from what had become socially unacceptable in the modern age- hating Jews-by artfully masking any anti-Semitism on their part by stating, "Oh, no, it's not Jews that I loathe, only the oppressive, genocidal, and racist policies of Zionism and Israel."

But even that concern for appearing to be politically correct has now, too, vanished. When students are calling for the death of the fellow students based on their religion or political inclinations, something more serious and troubling is going on here that cannot be easily dismissed as part of the back and forth in the "marketplace of ideas" that universities are so fond of facilitating. But craven college administrators, who in their zeal to achieve "diversity" and "multiculturalism" have relieved campus victim groups of any responsibility for their noxious or morally reprehensible views and regularly fail to condemn the behavior of favored groups on campus while publicly denouncing, punishing, or distancing themselves from the opposing voices coming, for instance, from conservatives, Christians, Republicans, or pro-Israel groups or faculty members.

Imagine for a moment that during the latest incident instead of Hillel, another of the University's student organizations, the Trans Bisexual Lesbian Gay Allies at York, had held a press conference in the student union to give their views, say, on gay marriage, a topic over which there can, and are, many viewpoints. Imagine further that counter-protestors, joined in their demonstration by Rev. Fred Phelps from Westboro Baptist Church and inflamed by what they felt was an assault on their Christian faith, angrily barricaded the TBLG Allies in their offices, pounded violently on the walls and screamed out, as the ever-sensitive Phelps is wont to do, "God hates fags," "No fags in heaven," "death to sodomites," or that some of them were "Jezebellian switch-hitting whores."

Assuming that such a counter protest would even have been allowed to occur on campus, does anyone doubt the extent of denunciation and condemnation that would have risen from an apoplectic administration and faculty if this hateful speech and behavior took place? Would not the gay students have felt "threatened," "harassed," "intimidated," or had their feelings hurt, and called for forced sensitivity training for the offenders? Is there any doubt that the counter-protestors would be de-funded, sanctioned, or punished into silence or prevented from further demonstrations or the ability to express their opinions on campus again?

Therein lies the hypocrisy in academic free speech on campus today: while coddling selected victim groups and granting them unlimited expression as a purported way to further diversity of thought, college administrators have regularly denied those same rights and privileges to groups deemed not to deserve or need them, namely, conservatives, Christians, Republicans, and or those who seek a strong defense against radical Islam and terrorism aimed at Western democracies, principally the U.S. and Israel. So if pro-Israel and Jewish students have to be escorted by police to protect them from physical assault and nothing is said about the egregious nature of the offense, and pro-Israel, anti-terror speakers such as Daniel Pipes are shouted down and heckled relentlessly when they come to York, the university is failing in its stated objective to foster true debate and free speech where reasoned conclusions can evolve through animated and lively discussion of alternate views.

" The `Israel debate,' " say Gary A. Tobin, Aryeh K. Weinberg, and Jenna Firer in The Uncivil University, "is not a true intellectual debate at all, but rather a failure of the university community at all levels to properly protect its highest ideals. No institution of higher learning should allow Jewish students to be intimidated or attacked, or pro-Israel speakers to be so physically threatened that they cannot safely visit a campus."

Why? Because "such an environment is antithetical to the mission" of the university, they say, and if the academy abandons that goal for the sake of selected groups and favored causes today, it clearly make victims of other groups whose views and voice deserve the same hearing in our marketplace of ideas.


British teachers 'not allowed' to chase four-year-old school runaway - because of health and safety risk

Using police instead of teachers is a huge waste of resources

It's being called a 'safe handling policy,' but the extraordinary health and safety rule which has enabled an inquisitive four-year-old boy to repeatedly wander out the school playground is enough to give any parent nightmares. On four occasions since the start of term, youngster River Baker has walked out of school grounds during break time to explore the outside world. Each time he has apparently been spotted by the supervising member of staff. But instead of grabbing or running after him to bring him back, the teacher has 'tracked' the youngster on foot to ensure he comes to no harm and rung the police so officers can stop him.

On one occasion River and another boy of similar age were followed as they walked near a busy main road and five police vehicles turned up to pick them up, she claimed.

The bizarre series of events and refusal of staff to physically stop the four-year-old walking out the open school entrance has appalled and astonished River's mother Suzan Baker, 44. 'There are all sorts of issues here,' she said. 'The school policy is crazy but the security is also pathetic. The teachers say they keep an eye on the kids in the playground all the time, but when they get out, which is so easy to do, they have to follow them a couple of hundred yards behind. It's ludicrous.'

River has left St Mary's Roman Catholic Primary School in Richmond, North Yorkshire, four times since January - twice going into a school next door, once walking alongside a busy road and once heading for woodland.

Miss Baker, a single mother-of-three, said she was told due to policy staff were not allowed to grab him. 'I was on a driving lesson when I got a call telling me that they had picked him up from woods at the back of his school. They told me they had followed him and rung the police. When I questioned them about it they just said "do you know how fast a four-year-old can run?"

'It's crazy, an adult could easily catch up with him and safely restrain him. But apparently it is school policy not to grab them.'

Two weeks earlier River and a friend were heading towards an abbey about a mile from the school and walking next to a busy road. 'Again the teacher followed behind and this time five police vans turned up to pick them up. When I found out about this I flipped my lid. 'It's so dangerous out there, it's terrifying what could have happened to them. They could have been run over or grabbed by a sicko before the police got there, it doesn't bear thinking about.'

Miss Baker, a caterer who also has a 14-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son, lives in fear of the next call from school and keeps her mobile phone with her at all times. The youngster has once climbed the six ft high fence, but usually just walks out the open entrance. 'When I ask him why he runs away he says "I want to get some exercise." 'He's four years old and he's a boy, so of course he is going to want to run about and explore like all other kids do. He's always been a lively lad.'

And it seems staff are acting according to local authority policy. Acting headteacher Jill Wilkinson said:'We have a positive safe handling policy that allows us to use reasonable action. However it can be dangerous to chase after a child because often it makes them run faster.'

A spokeswoman for North Yorkshire County Council said it helped draw up a 'protocol' about what to do when a child runs away and denied ordering staff not to stop them leaving school. 'If a teacher or a member of support staff considers a child is in immediate danger of running away then he or she can use reasonable and appropriate physical intervention. 'If a child does run away a member of staff has to make a quick judgement as to whether giving chase in order to restrain a child might put that child in greater danger, such as running into oncoming traffic. 'The school is situated next to a busy highway. If they consider this is the case they are advised to track the child rather than chase and if necessary call the police.'


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