The New York Times Replica Edition

The Fallout From the Antisemitism Hearing

TO THE EDITOR:

Re “Penn’s President Felled by Furor Over Testimony” (front page, Dec. 10):

I too was not happy with M. Elizabeth Magill’s and the other university presidents’ responses at the congressional hearing about antisemitism on campus, but I do not support resignation or firing. Everyone in a difficult job has made mistakes and has learned from those mistakes. Should any of us be fired or forced to resign for every mistake we make?

All of these accomplished women were grilled at the hearing trying to balance their duties to protect the safety of their students and their right to free speech. Even the Supreme Court struggles with the same issue.

Yes, their answers at the time were inadequate, but they have subsequently explained their thinking and plans to move forward. They deserved an opportunity to get it right. We would expect the same for ourselves.

KENNETH OLSHANSKY

SAN RAFAEL, CALIF.

TO THE EDITOR:

There is no place, any time, anywhere that calling for the genocide of any group of people is acceptable. Full stop.

LYNN BERNSTEIN, BROOKLYN

TO THE EDITOR:

M. Elizabeth Magill’s basic point — that her university’s penalty for hateful speech depends on the specific facts — was both thoughtful and appropriate. But the answer can’t be viewed in isolation.

The question wasn’t asked, but it seems unimaginable that Ms. Magill (or the other two college presidents) before that House committee would have shown such nuanced equivocation if the question was whether a student would be disciplined for advocating the genocide of, say, Black people or Native Americans or homosexuals.

I suspect that much of the furor is because their carefully rehearsed answers suggest a troubling campus double standard: a protective one for many traditionally oppressed groups — and a different standard for Jews.

GREG SCHWED, NEW YORK

The writer is a lawyer.

TO THE EDITOR:

Re “University Presidents Walked Into a Trap,” by Michelle Goldberg (column, Dec. 10):

Ms. Goldberg’s thoughtful commentary regarding the testimony of the three university presidents before Congress unfortunately misses the point.

Yes, freedom of speech and debate is essential and must be protected. However, when hateful speech becomes conduct is not the proper test for triggering discipline.

Freedom of speech ends where it becomes bullying, intimidation or incitement, or where it puts people in fear of bodily harm or suppresses the speech of others. It certainly ends where a reasonable listener can interpret it as a call to commit horrific crimes such as genocide.

There has been far too much hypocrisy, including the selective enforcement of rules. This is where the university presidents and the institutions they lead fall short. Whether in the academy or on the street, individuals must learn how to permit and debate any side of an issue without crossing the line into hate speech.

Young people and many others don’t understand this because our educators have failed to teach them how to do so — a task that is essential to a healthy society.

WILLIAM TITELMAN, ATHENS

The writer is a retired lawyer.

TO THE EDITOR:

I think that university administrators across the country are abdicating their role to educate students. Under the guise of free speech, they are missing the point. Rather than simply protecting a student’s right to speak freely, they should be making sure that students are educated on the issues.

As a professor at Kent State University, I have more than once encountered students who rally and hold film screenings without a full understanding of what they were fighting for and against, nor the implications of their positions both here and abroad. I have seen that when given the benefit of knowledge, students have changed course and reconsidered their actions.

By sitting back and asserting free speech above all, administrators are missing the opportunity to engage students in their own education, and failing the very students they are working so hard to protect.

BECKY ROLNICK-FOX

AKRON, OHIO

OPINION

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2023-12-11T08:00:00.0000000Z

2023-12-11T08:00:00.0000000Z

https://eeditionnytimes.pressreader.com/article/282024742044161

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