Friday, January 15, 2010

Censorship and Libel at USC

In September 2009, David Horowitz was invited by the University of Southern California College Republicans to come on campus and protest an Islamic Hadith calling for the genocide of the Jews that appeared on an official USC website. His speech was attacked in advance by Students for Justice in Palestine and the USC Progressive Alliance, who made up quotes and attributed them to Horowitz in order to paint him as an Islamophobe and a racist. Undeterred by this slander, Horowitz spoke on the USC campus on November 4 to a packed house.

On December 3, the USC Vice President of Student Affairs, Michael Jackson, published “an open letter to the USC community” in the Daily Trojan, the USC campus newspaper, attacking the College Republicans for bringing Horowitz to campus. Jackson claimed that Horowitz’s presence “led members of our community, our Muslim students, to feel threatened, unsafe, and betrayed.” This letter was also sent to every official USC student, faculty, and staff email address and was published as an ad in the Daily Trojan.

Horowitz wrote a response to Jackson’s letter and submitted it as an ad to the Daily Trojan, which Jackson controls and which initially rejected it. The David Horowitz Freedom Center responded by notifying USC officials of its intent to pursue relief under California’s Unruh Act, which requires student papers to observe rules of basic fairness. After reflection, the Trojan agreed to print Horowitz’s response and it ran in Tuesday’s edition of the paper. It appears below.
An Open Letter to the USC Community: Response to VP Student Affairs Michael L. Jackson:

Vice President Jackson’s “Open Letter to the USC Community” denigrating student leaders of College Republicans for inviting me to speak is ill-informed and provides unfortunate support for campus hate speech, specifically for the attacks on Jewish students that have become increasingly prevalent on college campuses these days. I was invited to USC to speak about this problem and specifically about an incitement to kill Jews posted on an official USC website and attributed to the prophet Mohammed. The incitement was originally posted by the USC Muslim Student Union. It was removed last spring by Provost Nicias, who called it “disgusting,” over protests from the Muslim Student Union. It was recently restored to a USC website by another campus group. When this re-posting came to my attention, I contacted USC students and said I would like to come to campus to address this and related issues. This led to my invitation from College Republicans.

My speech and my hosts were attacked, however, before I even appeared at USC. We were subjected to a series of vicious slanders which should have no place on a university campus. A flyer put out by the USC Progressive Alliance maliciously and falsely claimed that College Republicans hate Muslims and then invented an entire quote attributed to me claiming that Muslim believers are “soulless beasts.” I have never said or written anything that could be construed this way, nor do I believe it. In the millions of words I have published I have never used the phrase “soulless beast” to describe anyone, let alone pious Muslims.

Nor was this the only attack on us. The president of Students for Justice in Palestine sent out a campus email making a series of false claims about what I have written in the past, including the malicious lie that I said that African Americans should be grateful for slavery. A version of this slander endorsed by half a dozen recognized USC student groups and five USC professors was published in the Daily Trojan, which is under Michael Jackson’s jurisdiction and which refused to print my rebuttal.

In his “Open Letter” Vice President Jackson not only ignores these assaults on campus tolerance but singles out the victims of these attacks for disapprobation. He justifies this moral blindness by claiming that I described the USC Muslim Student Union as “a terrorist organization with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.” I never made such a statement – not before my speech nor during the course of it.

What I did point out in my speech was the USC Muslim Student Union’s decision to post the alleged saying of the prophet Mohammed that in order for the Day of Judgment to come, Muslims must “fight the Jews and kill them,” and its defense of the posting after Provost Nicias ordered its removal.

It is true that on other occasions I have said that the national Muslim Students Association is part of the Muslim Brotherhood network with ties to Hamas. I have also said that the national Muslim Students Association sponsors anti-gay, anti-woman and anti-Semitic speakers on many campuses, and is behind an event on every anniversary of the creation of the state Israel that calls for its destruction – a genocidal incitement. These claims are documented here in this Investigative Project report on the Muslim Student Association. In any case, they should be a legitimate part of any dialogue on a university campus concerned with the current conflict between radical elements in Islam and the democracies of the West. The fact that a vice president in charge of student affairs should want to de-legitimize and thereby suppress these opinions in the name of “tolerance” is positively Orwellian and does not speak well for the intellectual climate at this great university.


As School Exit Tests Prove Tough, States water standards down to almost nothing

A law adopting statewide high school exams for graduation took effect in Pennsylvania on Saturday, with the goal of ensuring that students leaving high school are prepared for college and the workplace. But critics say the requirement has been so watered down that it is unlikely to have major impact.

The situation in Pennsylvania mirrors what has happened in many of the 26 states that have adopted high school exit exams. As deadlines approached for schools to start making passage of the exams a requirement for graduation, and practice tests indicated that large numbers of students would fail, many states softened standards, delayed the requirement or added alternative paths to a diploma.

People who have studied the exams, which affect two-thirds of the nation’s public school students, say they often fall short of officials’ ambitious goals. “The real pattern in states has been that the standards are lowered so much that the exams end up not benefiting students who pass them while still hurting the students who fail them,” said John Robert Warren, an expert on exit exams and a professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. “The exams are just challenging enough to reduce the graduation rate,” Professor Warren added, “but not challenging enough to have measurable consequences for how much students learn or for how prepared they are for life after high school.”

In 2008, state officials in Alabama, Arizona and Washington delayed the start of the exit exam requirement and lowered standards after seeing that many students, including a disproportionate number of minorities, would fail the tests.

Many states have faced lawsuits over the proposed requirements amid accusations that the tests are unfair to students with disabilities, non-native speakers of English and students attending schools with fewer educational resources. These concerns have been bolstered by recent studies that indicate that the exams lead to increased dropout rates by one or two percentage points.

But proponents say that with the decline in manufacturing and the growth of the information economy, higher educational standards are needed to reinforce the value of a high school diploma. The exams, they argue, give school districts better incentives to succeed and ensure that no one will graduate without documented skills in specific subjects. “Momentum is definitely still moving in favor of states’ adopting these exit exams,” said John F. Jennings, the president of the Center on Education Policy, which publishes annual reports on high school exit exams.

Mr. Jennings added that this momentum was likely to grow next month when the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents state school superintendents, are to release a common core of state standards in English-language arts and mathematics for kindergarten through Grade 12. Federal officials have set aside $350 million for states to create tests that correspond to the new national standards, and Mr. Jennings said there was a good chance that states would consider adopting these new tests for their exit exams.

Despite criticism of exit exams, some experts say that schools have benefited from them. Surveys indicate that teachers say the tests have brought clearer guidelines on curriculum, which they find helpful. And after the exam grades begin to count, students often start taking them more seriously, which causes passage rates to increase, Mr. Jennings said.

Gerald L. Zahorchak, the secretary of education in Pennsylvania, is a strong advocate for the state’s new tests, which will be phased in over the next five years. “I want more than anything to be able to say with confidence that every Pennsylvania student who receives a diploma is ready for the real world,” Dr. Zahorchak said. He added that in 2007-8, more than 20,000 public high school graduates who enrolled in a public higher education institution required some form of remedial help, with a total cost to taxpayers, students and parents in excess of $26 million.

Nonetheless, responding to fervent opposition from legislators, teachers unions and advocates for parents who feared a loss of local control, Pennsylvania opted in October to allow school districts to substitute their own versions of the exit exams, with state approval, and to give students who fail multiple times alternative paths to graduation.

The rules in Pennsylvania require students to pass at least four courses, with the end-of-course exams counting for a third of the course grade. If students fail an exam or a section of an exam, they will have two chances to retake it. If they cannot pass after that, they have the option of doing a subject-specific project that is approved by district officials.

More here

Islamic extremist teaches at one of Britain's most prestigious universities

A senior figure in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a hardline Islamist group that the Government keeps “under continuous review” and the Conservatives want to ban, is teaching and preaching at a top university. The Times has learnt that Reza Pankhurst, who was imprisoned in Egypt for membership of the group, is a teacher at the London School of Economics and regularly preaches to students at Friday prayers.

The group is supposedly barred from organising and speaking on campuses under the National Union of Students’ policy of “no platform” for racist or fascist views. The presence of one of its prominent members as a university teacher raises new concerns about Islamist radicalisation on campus.

A new review of campus extremism began last month after it was discovered that the alleged Detroit airline bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was a former president of the Islamic Society at University College London. The Times understands that at least two London university lecturers are either supporters or members of Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Mr Pankhurst is a postgraduate student in the LSE’s government department and teaches classes for the course “States, Nations and Empires”. On Fridays he is one of the regular speakers at prayers organised by the students’ union Islamic Society in the college gym. A society member told The Times: “He preaches every other week and is constantly bringing the subject around to politics, talking about Afghanistan and the need to establish the Caliphate [Islamic state]. “Only last week he was talking about the Detroit bomber and saying the guy was not radicalised in London and it was all to do with foreign policy. “Last year he recommended we should attend a conference which I later discovered was organised by Hizb ut-Tahrir, but he never mentions the party by name.”

In 2002 Mr Pankhurst was one of three British Hizb ut-Tahrir members arrested in Egypt for attempting to promote the movement. They were held for four years and tortured before being released in 2006. He remained active in the movement after his return and, according to well-informed sources, is still a senior figure. Last month a meeting at Queen Mary College, London, at which Mr Pankhurst and Jamal Harwood, another member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, were due to speak, was cancelled after student protests about the speakers’ views.

The Times made repeated attempts to contact the group and Mr Pankhurst yesterday but without success. The group states on its website that its “political aim is the re-establishment of the Islamic Caliphate as an independent state”. It says that it rejects forcing change “by means of violence and terror”. Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in Germany for anti-semitic activity but, despite Tony Blair announcing plans to proscribe it in 2005, it remains legal in Britain.

In a speech last month Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, said that the Conservative Party would ban the group if elected to Government. Mr Grayling said: “Within the UK it takes extreme care about how it words its propaganda ... But anyone who doubts its true character should take a look at the website for its sister organisation in Bangladesh, which talks about evil American plans to subjugate Muslims and about mobilising armed forces to eliminate the Jewish entity. We cannot allow such views free rein in our society.”

The LSE confirmed that Mr Pankhurst was a research student and a graduate teaching assistant. A spokesman said: “No concerns about his conduct have been raised with the school and we are not aware that he is a member of any proscribed organisation or has broken any laws or LSE regulations.”

The students’ union said that Mr Pankhurst was a member of its Islamic Society. Aled Dilwyn Fisher, general secretary of the union, said: “As far as we are aware, Mr Pankhurst is not currently a member of an illegal extremist group.”

A spokesman for the anti-extremism think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation, said: “Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organisation which has a long track record of promoting intolerance, has not abandoned its efforts to infiltrate British universities in order to spread its destructive, confrontational message. “Its infiltration of internationally renowned universities such as the LSE make a mockery of universities’ claims to be tackling extremism on campus.”

A Home Office spokesman said “Hizb ut-Tahrir is kept under continuous review. As and when new material comes to light it is considered and the organisation reassessed as part of that process.” [Translation: "We do nothing unless pushed"]


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