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Invoking 'academic freedom' to silence debate
by Kenneth L. Marcus
Academic freedom, like democracy, is one of those things everyone supports because it can mean anything to anyone. In this sense, it is the opposite of anti-Semitism, which everyone opposes because it can be defined so narrowly that it means virtually nothing at all. What's interesting is when the two concepts collide.
This is precisely what happened, for example, on Oct. 28 at Kent State University. Guest speaker Ishmael Khaldi, a former Israeli consul official, got a rough welcome when he visited to discuss his experience as an Israeli Bedouin. Professor Julio Pino, a Kent State historian, asked Khaldi hostile questions before leaving the hall shouting, "Death to Israel!"
Kent State's president, Lester A. Lefton, responded quite well. Lefton wrote that it "may have been Professor Pino's right to" shout at Khaldi, "but it is my obligation, as the president of this university, to say that I find his words deplorable, and his behavior deeply troubling." Lefton did not try to censor Pino. But he announced that Pino's behavior was out of bounds.
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