As of Friday, presidents at 300 universities had signed a petition asking for “intimidation-free” campuses. The petition states that any crimes against pro-Israeli students will be investigated in full, violators will be punished and freedom of speech was to be respected. Certainly, students have the right to reaffirm protection from their university, but the entire concept is slightly off-kilter because the petition requests it only for a select group. If these individuals truly want to make a statement about free speech, they need to include the same protection for all those who wish to voice their opinion.
Last spring, according to a New York Times report, professors at Harvard University started petitions requesting that American colleges cut their ties with Israel economically to show them that they would not tolerate crimes against Palestinians in the name of the War on Terrorism. The petition received immense criticism from pro-Israeli students and professors.
Now, led by James O. Freedman, a former president of Dartmouth College, professors worried about recent attacks on students who spoke out in support of Israel’s actions are asking university presidents to sign petitions that require the university to protect the rights, lives and property of those students.
It is understandable that these individuals wish to be protected by their respective universities and, of course, requesting these measures is within their rights. But where were these professors when Muslim students were being abused after the Sept. 11 attacks? It’s a true injustice on their part as academic leaders to advocate something that is designed to protect only one vulnerable group on university campuses when there are so many.
A better solution to the problem of violence against students with controversial beliefs is to begin a petition that gives greater protection to the rights of all students. Sexual orientation, political agendas and religious preferences, along with countless other issues are passed around college campuses with amazing speed and, often, amazing prejudice. Pro-Israeli students don’t deserve special protection over any other group.