This month the House Committee on Education and the Workforce took up the subject of rising anti semitic violence on Ivy league campuses. The committee questioned Harvard President Claudine Gay, former University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill and MIT President Sally A. Kornbluth on university policies. Predictably each Ivy president led with the ‘free speech’ defense, though none of them offered any evidence or explanation regarding their respective policies or the legal precepts behind them. Each Ivy president was also questioned about the role of monetary endowments from foreign governments hostile to Israel and to Jews in general. Once again, Claudine Gay, Elizabeth Magill, and Sally Kornbluth proved to be the academic version of ‘empty suits’ claiming the shield of ethical behavior. They gave carefully crafted responses most likely based on attorney advice to stonewall the committee.
What the Ivy presidents conveniently ignored was the potential criminality of mob behavior hiding behind ‘free speech.’ In short, the Ivy executives failed to enforce the law equitably or even endorse such enforcement.
Rep. Elise Stefanik grilled the university executives on each campus’ code of conduct. Stefanik asked the following; “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment?”
Each university president hid behind the mantle of ‘nuance’ while ducking the question. Each university president prefaced their answer with the attorney prepped phrase of …”if the speech becomes conduct,” and “depending on the context.”
Sally Kornbluth of MIT answered that calling for Intifada or genocide against Jews would only be investigated as harassment …”if pervasive and severe.” Kornbluth also claimed that chants of Intifada or calls for a genocide against Jews were only considered anti semitic…”depending on the context.”
Harvard president Claudine Gay was calm and professional when she responded to Stefanik’s question, explaining that when…”anti semitic rhetoric when it crosses into conduct, that amounts to bullying, harassment, intimidation, that is actionable conduct and we do take action.”
The response from University of Pennsylvania’s Liz Magill was the most appalling. Magill is a licensed attorney, was the Dean of the Stanford Law School–and clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her refusal to condemn a genocidal call to ‘kill all the Jews’ was particularly odd. Her refusal to acknowledge such attacks as not only bullying and harassment, but as potential criminal assault was suspicious. Why would a top legal scholar disregard some obvious criminal behavior? Why would a top legal scholar disregard the issue of hate crimes on campus?
These three Ivy League presidents were undeniably–wrong. Academic discipline aside, screaming as a mob the phrase; “death to all Jews”, is inciting violence to a level far more profound than ‘bullying.’ It constitutes the crime of assault. Legal precedent regarding threatening rhetoric is classified as actionable criminal behavior and supported by the Supreme Court via the Brandenburg precedent–and yes–it does balance free speech rights through the lens of ‘context.’
Free speech and free assembly are sacred in this nation and I support that view. Free speech and free assembly are not absolute. There are limits recognized by law to those freedoms, and you would think that universities with top law schools (such as Harvard), would have appeared prepared to discuss these obvious ‘nuances’, (to use Claudine Gay’s terminology).
The Legal Information Institute is a small non profit group dedicated to providing open and free access to the law at an international level. They believe that non attorneys have a right to access, read and understand the law. LII is housed at the Cornell Law School, which is their parent institution.
According to LII, assault is defined as…”an intentional act that puts another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent harmful or offensive contact. No physical injury is required, but the actor must have intended to cause a harmful or offensive contact with the victim and the victim must have thereby been put in immediate apprehension of such a contact.”
The element of intent is discussed. Criminal intent regarding assault means that the offense is not accidental. Actual motive is immaterial. Claiming the assault was a joke or merely an attempt to scare a target is irrelevant. Prosecutors do not have to establish harmful or offensive intent on the part of the defendant. The only intent prosecutors have to establish is the intent to make the actual contact.
According to LII, “Reasonable apprehension” in the context of assault, refers to the victim’s reasonable belief that the act will lead to imminent harmful or offensive contact.”
Do the protests meet the level of criminal assault? In a word, yes. Students at the University of Pennsylvania were met with chants of “We are Hamas,” by crowds outside their classrooms, their dormitories and dining halls. Hamas is an internationally recognized terrorist organization. Their atrocities against civilians are well documented and included wholesale rape, torture and beheading babies. Shrieking “we are Hamas” is akin to shrieking “we are the KKK” to African Americans. So yes, the phrase, “we are Hamas” en masse, is an instance of ‘fighting words,’ meant to terrorize.
Another restriction to speech lies in the doctrine of ‘fighting words.’ The Legal Information Institute defines ‘fighting words’ as …”words meant to incite violence such that they may not be protected free speech under the First Amendment.” The first Supreme Court case to introduce this concept was Chaplinsky v New Hampshire (1942). This landmark case defined ‘fighting words’ as rhetoric which …”by their very utterance, inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.”
Another landmark case was Terminiello v Chicago (1949), which ‘narrowed’ the scope of the definition to the ‘clear and present danger’ standard. The Legal Information Institute explained that …”words which produce a clear and present danger are unprotected (and are considered fighting words), but words which invite dispute and even cause unrest are protected ( and are not considered fighting words). This ‘clear and present danger’ standard was the one most often cited by the Ivy presidents. While technically correct, the standard is also subjective in application. The Ivy presidents are to be condemned not for their citation of this standard, but for the prejudicial manner of application.
The next standards set by the Supreme Court followed in the cases of Feiner v People of State of New York (1951), Texas v Johnson (1989), and finally R.A.V. v City of St. Paul (1992).
The Feiner case held that …”incitement of a riot which creates a clear and present danger is also not protected by the First Amendment.”
Texas v Johnson …”redefined the scope of the fighting words doctrine to mean words that are …”a direct personal insult or an invitation to exchange fisticuffs.” The court further held that burning the American flag was symbolic free speech and did not constitute any expression of the ‘fighting words’ doctrine.
Finally, the decision in R.A.V. v City of St. Paul (1992), set down another vague standard, claiming that the …”First Amendment prevents government from punishing speech and expressive conduct because it disapproves of the ideas expressed.” This decision further claimed that First Amendment protection is extended to ‘fighting words’ if …”the speech restriction is based on viewpoint discrimination.” Again, the interpretation is subjective and the universities have applied this defense in a prejudicial manner.
Jewish students at various Ivy league schools have been physically assaulted on their campuses, regardless of politics. They were hunted down and attacked–for being Jews. According to reporting from the New York Post, graduate divinity student Elon Tettey-Temalko was filmed allegedly assaulting a Harvard Business School student who was also Israeli. Temalko is a founder of a pro-Palestinian group known as GS4P aka Graduate Students 4 Palestine.
Did Temalko inquire into this random business student’s political beliefs? No. On Ivy league campuses, Jewish students are guilty–for being Jewish.
Another attack on the Harvard campus involved a mob of anti-zionist activists that hunted down a Jewish student, surrounding and shoving him, while shrieking shame. The editor of the Harvard Law Review, Ibrahim Bharmal, was involved. The incident was captured on video and went viral. No one from campus police or the administration made any effort to intervene.
Jewish students trapped in the library at the Cooper Union University in East Village, New York, were threatened by pro-Palestinian protesters who violently broke through campus security barriers, banging on the doors and windows demanding entry. The school’s remedy was to lock the Jewish students in the building.
Pro-Palestinian students at Amherst University rioted and took over the administration building. They were subsequently arrested.
19 year old University of Pennsylvania chemistry student, Claudia Tawil reported the non stop harassment of Jewish students on campus. One of the chants being shouted is, “There is only one solution: intifada resolution.” Tawil was interviewed by the New York Post, stating how the chant deliberately parallels Hitler’s “Final Solution”. Tawil explained; “It basically means they want to obliterate us.”
Penn hosted a festival of Palestinian literature headlined as Palestine Writes. Instead of a literary event, it featured anti-Semitic speakers such as Roger Waters and some 25 other extremists. This festival took place during the Jewish High Holidays of atonement. A scant two weeks later, student activists gathered to celebrate the October 7th murders. Jewish students were blocked from accessing classes during ongoing rallies. They also had to contend with students and professors advocating for the genocide of all Jews.
Penn’s former president, Liz Magill, acknowledged the vast problem of dangerous anti semitism on campus, an acknowledgment she refused to cede to when questioned by members of Congress. Magill spoke of …”swastikas and hateful graffiti”…and…”chants at rallies, captured on video and widely circulated, that glorify the terrorist atrocities of Hamas, that celebrate and praise the slaughter and kidnapping of innocent people, and that question Israel’s very right to exist.”
In spite of this previous statement, Penn’s response was anemic and unresponsive.
Anti semitic attacks on campus have been so prevalent that the Brandeis Center filed an OCR (Office of Civil RIghts) complaint on 11/10/23. To quote; “Based on well-documented pervasive incidents of discrimination against Jews at two high education institutions, the Brandeis Center is filing separate complaints with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education. Both seek immediate and specific action to address increasing discrimination against and harassment of Jews in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Each filing includes statements from students that explain how they were harassed and/or subjected to discrimination.”
The complaint alleges that the universities have failed to uphold the requirements of Title VI, which …”prohibits schools that receive federal funding from allowing harassment, bias or discrimination on campus.” Lawyers from Brandeis Center contend that Jews are protected …”on the basis of their “actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.”
The founder and chair of the Brandeis Center Kenneth L. Marcus alleged the following:
“These colleges and universities have failed to keep Jewish students safe and are in clear violation of well-established federal civil rights law. There’s been a lot of talk about rooting out anti-Semitism on campuses, and it’s time to hold these colleges accountable.”
Marcus added that it’s time to …”hold these universities accountable for letting Jewish discrimination run rampant.”
The issue isn’t political activism or free speech. The issue is the right for all students to attend school without being harassed or otherwise attacked.
The activities witnessed on Ivy league campuses advocating for Palestine while demanding the genocide of all Jews–is not free speech. It is criminal assault, with the university administrations enabling such abuse.
Ivy league schools disregarded hate crimes on campus…the answer may lie in foreign endowments…
All three Ivy presidents disregarded hate crimes on campus. Instead they gave prepared responses crafted by university attorneys to avoid further legal liability. While the statements given to the congressional committee were carefully worded, they evaded the issue of criminal assault and possible hate crimes against Jews. While a lot does depend on ‘context’ for the legal definition of ‘fighting words’; there is no guesswork when Jewish students are physically cornered, surrounded and bullied. There is no guesswork when large numbers of students shriek “kill all the Jews” outside of classrooms where Jewish students are attempting to study. In these instances, the ‘context’ is clear. Not only do these behaviors constitute harassment, assault (and possible battery), but they look like hate crimes. The issue isn’t just the targeting of Jewish students. The issue is the inconsistent enforcement of the law and university policies which favor one group over another–and with prejudice. Sally Kornbluth, Claudine Gay and Liz Magill know this all too well.
Would these Ivy administrations similarly ignore such attacks if the targets of hate were Palestinians–or Black Lives Matter activists? The true issue isn’t a specific bias towards Israel or Palestine, but rather a refusal by private universities to ensure the equal access and rights of all students and staff. Instead, these Ivies have instructed leaders to obfuscate and twist the law into perverted interpretations that perpetuate inequality on campus.
So, why would a legal scholar, a former dean of the Stanford Law School like Magill, ignore the law regarding assault and battery on campus? Why would she ignore the Brandenburg precedent? Why would she ignore obvious hate crimes on campus?
The answer may lie in the issue of massive foreign endowments to each Ivy, coming from nations and entities linked to terrorist organizations dedicated to the total genocide of all Jews. The pattern of foreign endowments is certainly worthy of a DOJ investigation.
Students for Justice in Palestine or SJP organized a “Day of Resistance” immediately after the October 7th attack. They have a constitutional right to such non violent protest. That is not the argument here. What the general public does not realize are SJP’s financial ties to Hamas. SJP was founded by Hatem Bazian, who also founded American Muslims for Palestine (AMP). SJP receives funding from AMP. Here the plot thickens. AMP leaders are linked to the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP). AMP’s “financial wing” is the Holy Land Foundation.
To add further complexity, the Holy Land Foundation (HLM) has helped fund Hamas in the millions of dollars. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/federal-judge-hands-downs-sentences-holy-land-foundation-case Finally, the IAP was found civilly liable for various Hamas attacks.
The Muslim state of Qatar has become the largest source of endowments to multiple American universities, including the Ivies, since 9/11. https://www.ynetnews.com/business/article/bjldya2qa Qatar has contributed some $4.7 billion dollars to various American universities according to a study conducted by the U.S. National Association of Scholars, though not all funds were reported to the government as required by federal law.
A 2019 study conducted by the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, titled Follow the Money, examined how foreign money from states like Qatar actually sponsors hate crimes against Jews in our universities.
Qatar plays the ‘peace’ broker when in actuality it has historically funded Hamas.
Until our colleges and universities are held accountable for prejudicial enforcement of publicly stated policies regulating student and professor conduct, the lynch mob mentality will only grow.
The war between Hamas and Israel has devolved into a war on children and other civilians. Human rights violations witnessed during this conflict are nothing short of evil. Before anything else proceeds, we must save the children–all the children. It is due to this shameful reality that the war on civilians must come to an immediate and enduring ceasefire in order to deliver critical humanitarian aid, concurrent with the release of all American and Israeli hostages. This is the most bitter of blood feuds, denying the fact is denying reality. That being said, irresponsible anti semitic rhetoric coming from politicians, academics, and activist groups, is just as illegitimate as the hateful Islamophobic rhetoric after 9/11.That is the larger story.
The more immediate story lies in the systemic criminal negligence and civil rights violations on college campuses when students are attacked by alleged ‘activist’ groups. Today the activist ‘flavor du jour’ favorite target, happens to be Jewish students, regardless of political identity or sympathies. In past years, these same universities collectively disregarded how female students were harassed and raped.
The deeper issue here is systemic inequality on college campuses, where legacy admissions for the children of the rich and powerful are granted an academic and social blank check to be used as ‘cover’ for multiple transgressions.
The solution lies in enforcing the laws on the books. The Ivies push the ‘free speech’ bromide while the actual issue remains federal civil rights violations. But ivy league apologists continue to promote this empty argument. A prime example of such a baseless argument hails from rhetoric academician and attorney Lynn Greenky at Syracuse University. She offered a skewed and inaccurate view of ‘hate speech.’ To quote Greenky, …”Hyperbolic hate speech, even speech that endorses genocide or calls for forced racial and ethnic division, cannot be criminally prosecuted by states or the federal government. Those words might offend and frighten, but they are often part and parcel of emotionally charged political speech.”
Professor Greenky is correct about the few specific cases cited in her argument. That being said, none of those cases involved direct verbal threats such as “kill all the Jews”, coming from a mob aimed at individuals attempting to walk to class or shrieking outside a Jewish dormitory.
Her argument is patently disingenuous as she ignored the clear and imminent danger on these campuses. The threat coming from crowds outnumbering and targeting Jewish students in the form of a mob does constitute criminal assault. Tolerating…”hyperbolic hate speech,” that …”endorses genocide” is exactly the type of activities that the civil rights law sought to curtail and balance against ‘free speech’ claims.
There’s a significant difference between ‘complicity’ and implied ‘guilt by association,’ the latter being nothing more than a logical fallacy based on the preferred bigotry of the day. An example of this fallacy is the following:
“We cannot have educational reform that my opponent calls for because Dr. Corrupt has also mentioned this kind of educational reform.” https://owl.excelsior.edu/argument-and-critical-thinking/logical-fallacies/logical-fallacies-guilt-by- association/
Today ‘guilt by association’ is applied in a wholesale manner against all Jews. We are called ‘complicit’ because we also assert our constitutional and human rights. Tomorrow the same illegitimate attack will be used against anyone daring to question a biased narrative.
You would think that highly educated and credentialed professionals like these university presidents would understand this critical concept. University presidents Liz Magill, Claudine Gay, and Sally Kornbluth, are right about one detail.
It certainly does depend on ‘context.’