We have been discussing the rising intolerance for free speech and academic freedom at colleges and universities from course material to social media postings to political speech to jokes. As speech codes and microaggression rules are enforced, various groups are calling for the silencing or removal of those with opposing views. The latest is at my school where pro-Israeli students are calling on the university to reconsider the appointment of anthropology and history professor Ilana Feldman as the interim dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs. The sole reason is that they disagree with Feldman’s support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
The effort is being assisted by Canary Mission which maintains of list of any academic and student that it considers to be anti-Israel as well as GW for Israel. The Canary Mission criticizes Feldman for her criticism of Israeli security actions and the conditions of Palestinian areas. It declares “Ilana Feldman is an activist in the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Feldman’s scholarship has demonized Israel and camouflaged the detrimental effect of Palestinian terrorist groups on Palestinians and Israelis.” The students insist that Feldman is a “fervent supporter” of the BDS movement, and “[w]e find it highly problematic that the university selected an individual who has worked to hinder international dialogue and exchange to head ESIA.”
The students want Feldman canned simply because she holds an opposing view. There is no evidence that Feldman has ever imposed her views on other faculty or students. Moreover, she has no authority to unilaterally adopt a BDS position for the faculty.
Having opposed speech codes and microaggression rules for many years, this response is unfortunately neither unique nor surprising. There is a diminishing respect for free speech and academic freedom. There was a time when those were the touchstones of the educational academy. Ironically, some of the BDS supporters on campuses have been advocates for silencing others in the imposition of speech codes and barring speakers. It is equally ironic that those who oppose this boycott movement want to effectively block or boycott those intellectuals who hold opposing views. This move shows how speech intolerance is like Saturn . . . it eventually devours its own.