Monday, October 31, 2011

Is it a reasonable exercise of free speech or academic freedom, if a prof shouts "Death to Israel" during a Q&A with an Israeli official?

That's the question raised by the behavior of a Kent State University faculty member last week:

Here's what KSU's prez had to say about the incident:

President Lefton's Response to Recent Guest Lecturer
Posted Oct. 27, 2011

This past Tuesday, a guest lecturer at our campus was treated in a way which I find reprehensible, and an embarrassment to our university.

Ishmael Khaldi, a former deputy counsel general at the Israeli consulate in San Francisco, spoke on our campus about his experiences as a Bedouin in Israel, and on other matters involving the Middle East.

During the question and answer period Kent State University professor Julio Pino posed a provocative question to Mr. Khaldi, which was his right. But then Professor Pino shouted “Death to Israel,” as he left the auditorium.

It may have been Professor Pino’s right to do so, but it is my obligation, as the president of this university, to say that I find his words deplorable, and his behavior deeply troubling.

We value critical thinking at this university, and encourage students to engage with ideas that they find difficult or make them uncomfortable. We hope that our faculty will always model how best to combine passion for one’s position with respect for those with whom we disagree. Calling for the destruction of the state from which our guest comes (as do some of our students, faculty and community members) is a grotesque failure to model these values.

Lester A. Lefton

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