Did Brooklyn College's Political Science Department Violate the First Amendment?
The co-sponsorship by the Brooklyn College political science department of an anti-Israel hate fest, from which pro-Israel students were excluded, may have violated the First Amendment. Had the event been sponsored only by student and outside private groups, their decision to exclude pro-Israel students and to prevent the distribution of anti-BDS leaflets would have been a private matter, that at worst may have violated the rules of the college. But the official co-sponsorship of the event by an academic department may have turned their exclusionary decisions into illegal "state action."
For purposes of the First Amendment, the political science department is Brooklyn College, which is the City University of New York, which is the State of New York. It was the State of New York, therefore, that expelled pro-Israel students who wanted to distribute constitutionally protected leaflets and wanted to pose constitutionally protected political questions. Such state action violates the First Amendment and New York law.
Accordingly, the benighted action of the political science department in taking sides in the debate over boycotting Israeli academics and institutions, may now come back to haunt the City University of New York, which is taking this situation seriously. The Chancellor issued the following statement:
At last week's event at Brooklyn College, sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine and the College's Department of Political Science, allegations were made by members of the college community who attended that they were impeded from expressing views either orally or in writing. There were reports that some said they were asked without cause to leave the event. If this were true, it was wrong and we need to understand exactly what the circumstances were. At the request of President Karen L. Gould, I have asked General Counsel and Senior Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs Frederick P. Schaffer to quickly investigate these allegations. This investigation will be coordinated by CUNY's Office of Legal Affairs, working with an independent consultant, and charged with reporting directly back to me.
There is, apparently, strong evidence to corroborate the accounts that pro-Israel students, especially those wearing yarmulkes or "looking" Jewish, were deliberately excluded, even though they secured written permission to attend. There is also corroboration of the accusation that pro-Israel students who managed to get into the event were thrown out when they refused to turn over to the organizers anti-BDS leaflets they wished to distribute. When these students complained to an official of the college, he reportedly replied that the anti-Israel students who were running the event were "calling the shots" and he could therefore do nothing.
But once the political science department became involved as a co-sponsor, the students alone could not call the shots, when it comes to the First Amendment. The university assumed responsibility for assuring that the free speech of all students was equally protected. The First Amendment forbids the State of New York from discriminating against pro-Israel or anti-BDS speech, as it apparently did here.
What happened at Brooklyn College demonstrates the wisdom of keeping academic departments from sponsoring non-academic hate fests, such as the BDS event. When academic departments become selective sponsors, the constitutional rules change, because the imprimatur of the university—and thus the state—is placed on the event.
The radical anti-Israel students who arranged the BDS conference thought they had obtained a benefit from the political science department's co-sponsorship—and perhaps they did in the short term. But in the long term, they may rue the day they persuaded the department to become involved in what should have been a student event. Now there may be legal consequences. The sword of co-sponsorship may have become a shield to protect the First Amendment rights of the students who were prevented from handing out anti-BDS leaflets and asking anti-BDS questions. I wonder if we will hear from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York Times editorial board about these violations of freedom of speech!
Reader comments on this item
|Grounds for a meritorious lawsuit [215 words]||Dcdoc||Feb 15, 2013 00:51|
|Brooklyn College [81 words]||Gary Fouse||Feb 13, 2013 12:30|
|Too much and too often. I don't think we really don't care that much to hear about Brooklyn College every week! [283 words]||John Klein||Feb 13, 2013 04:40|
|↔ What happens at Brooklyn College does matter [234 words]||Michael Gordon||Feb 16, 2013 08:35|
|Exclusionary, discriminatory, and racist [27 words]||Jonathan Danilowitz||Feb 13, 2013 03:58|
|Class action? [14 words]||H. Fragman||Feb 12, 2013 21:05|
|The BDS hate movement [76 words]||Elliott||Feb 12, 2013 20:36|
|Hot air and oratory [50 words]||Doug Klein||Feb 12, 2013 16:42|
|↔ Left or Right [98 words]||Ethan P.||Feb 14, 2013 14:17|
|What is BDS? [19 words]||Elly Orrin||Feb 12, 2013 15:58|
|Equivalency PC [79 words]||Ethan P.||Feb 12, 2013 15:28|
Comment on this item
by Alan M. Dershowitz
by Lawrence A. Franklin
There is no change in U.S policy toward Israel that will win any true allies in the Middle East, despite what Arab leaders claim. They often assert that if only we would solve the Palestinian-Israeli problem first, relations would improve. This is a tactic. These leaders employ it simply to divert Western officials from making demands on them, instead of on Israel. The reality is that most Arabs view the U.S., its European allies and Israel with ineradicable contempt.
by Alan M. Dershowitz
by Pierre Rehov
For terrorists, the death of innocent children is irrelevant. In a society that promotes martyrdom as the ultimate sign of success, the death of innocent children can sometimes even be seen as a public relations blessing.
In every action, intent is paramount. There should never be a moral equivalence painted between the deliberate killing of civilians, and a retaliation that tragically leads to casualties among civilians.
There is, however, one small difference: in the Middle East, reporters are threatened, except in Israel. Their choice becomes a simple one: promote the Palestinian point of view or stop working in the West Bank. Keep the eye of the camera dirty or lose your job. This show should not go on.
by Khaled Abu Toameh
Since 1948, the Arab countries and government have been paying mostly lip service to the Palestinians.
"They have money and oil, but don't care about the Palestinians, even though we are Arabs and Muslims like them. What a Saudi or Qatari sheikh spends in one night in London, Paris or Las Vegas could solve the problem of tens of thousands of Palestinians." — Palestinian human rights activist.
"Some Arabs were hoping that Israel would rid them of Hamas." — Ashraf Salameh, Gaza City.
"Some of the Arab regimes are interested in getting rid of the resistance in order to remove the burden of the Palestinian cause, which threatens the stability of their regimes." — Mustafa al-Sawwaf, Palestinian political analyst.
"Most Arabs are busy these days with bloody battles waged by their leaders, who are struggling to survive. These battles are raging in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and the Palestinian Authority." — Mohammed al-Musafer, columnist.
"The Arab leaders don't know what they want from the Gaza Strip. They don't even know what they want from Israel." — Yusef Rizka, Hamas official.