PrawfsBlawg on institutional responses to IAW and boycott campaigning

Paging Stanley Fish – a piece by Paul Horwitz on PrawfsBlawg about incendiary (in both senses) Israeli Apartheid Week posters, academic freedom, normal political discourse, and human rights. He opposes banning the posters:

“The posters, inflammatory as they may be, are clearly standard political speech.  They may not be civil, but they’re certainly well within the norms of “civil discourse in a free and democratic society” – or at least the kinds of free and democratic societies that value robust, uninhibited and wide-open debate.”

The kinds we need, even while we make objections to those norms.

He goes on to note a lightness in the student campaigning around free speech:

“The students apparently shy away from the obvious conclusion that the use of human rights codes in situations involving speech are generally suspect; rather, they argue that the “poster depicts a situation that has a factual basis and its intention is clearly to invite people to a lecture series,” so the poster is neither an incitement nor a violation of civil discourse.  (I hope they will be equally forgiving of similar posters that meet the same conditions, but with the names reversed!)”

Most importantly in its promotion of a debate about academic boycott, concluding:

“The university is a “community” in some important senses, but it isn’t a democracy, and even to the limited extent that it is, there is no universal suffrage … Academic freedom is a substantive value, and that value includes opposing academic boycotts; academic freedom does not, on the other hand, require democratic deliberation by all the stakeholders in a university.”

I’m new to Stanley Fish on the politics of the university.

4 Responses to “PrawfsBlawg on institutional responses to IAW and boycott campaigning”

  1. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    What is clearly disturbing here is the students’ collective lack of awareness concerning the two-way door nature of academic freedom, or that by attacking Israel’s academic freedom, they lay the door open to an attack on _their_ academic freedom. Perhaps they don’t care, so ideologised are they.

    Yes, of course, the posters should be allowed, unless and until they break a just law. By the same token, so should posters clearly labelling Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist, Islamist, Jihadist, antisemitic, mysoginist and homophobic murderous organisations, along with their main sponsor, the clerico-fascist Iranian regime.

    But, as is said, I bet the little darlings would be screaming “race-hatred” and running to the very uni human rights body they now condemn as attacking free speech.

    Don’t you just love students who couldn’t recognise an intellectual and political contradiction if it hit them round the face with a very large, very wet fish?

  2. Bill Says:

    Mira,

    At best, Stanley Fish is a fair weathered friend of academic freedom. In a past life in 1990, he was caught with a smoking peer-to-peer letter to his provost at Duke recommending that pedagogic conservatives (not necessarily political conservatives, many of them were self-described liberals, including a former head of Amnesty International!) be taken off key university committees. When the news got out out on it, he claimed that this peer-to-peer memo (not open an letter) was written to spark debate. Credibility detectors went wild.

    More recently he’s blown hot and cold on academic freedom, claiming at one moment that faculty should keep politics out of the classroom, while also making statements minimizing the damage speech codes and the lie do to due process and free expression on campus. He also called AF a “guild concept” which for me places it to readily on a butcher’s block where it can be gradually carved out of existence to suit the fashions of my local and very red-state “guild.” So his consistency on AF, even now is questionable, IMHO.

    There are better and more consistent and nonpartisan defenders of AF out there like Alan Korrs @ U Penn, but you can’t deny Fish’s rock star status, in part due to his convenient inconsistencies. We do so like to have our cake and eat it, too!

  3. Bill Says:

    “Yes, of course, the posters should be allowed, unless and until they break a just law. By the same token, so should posters clearly labelling Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist, Islamist, Jihadist, antisemitic, mysoginist and homophobic murderous organisations, along with their main sponsor, the clerico-fascist Iranian regime.”

    Oh Brian… This very same scenario is playing out for the second time in three years at San Francisco State U, where a few years ago, the school tried to singularly ban and punish protests against Hamas and Hezbollah as religious defamation (their flags have God written on them, you see, and while you can burn the US and Israeli flags, H&H’s flags are “protected”). Last time SFSU got hit with a lawsuit from the ACLU. And now people are trying to do the very same thing again to the same group of anti Hamas protesters. Too smart to study, too dumb to learn.

  4. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Bill, like we keep saying (by implication), my attempt to censor and/or boycott you is an example of my political freedom to do as I like in the “Land Of The Free”/Her Brittanic Majesty’s wonderful land, whereas your attempt to protest against my political (if flawed) heroes is clear evidence of your fascism/racism/willingness to undermine academic freedom/freedom of speech, to say nothing of your attempt to literally annihilate me.

    Yup, too smart to study, too stupid to learn.

    Unfortunately.

    All that said, Fish does raise some interesting points on the latest piece on his blog about this physics prof (follow the last link in Mira’s piece). At least, they’re interesting if he’s right about the guy’s actions. If right, the physicist does seem to be taking his contract of employment and the implied bits as well somewhat lightly. But is he right?


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