Since the riots of the late 1960s to promote the creation of a black studies department under Nathan Hare, a professor who believed that the academy should be an inspiration for action in the streets, San Francisco State University has had a reputation for being a seedbed for radicalism. To the delight of many of its faculty and students, Hare's union of theory and practice, what revolutionary Marxists call praxis, has strengthened over the years.
Lynne F. Stewart, who was sentenced to prison for being the liaison between her client, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, and his violent followers in Cairo, was feted at SFSU even while awaiting sentencing. Rahman, known as the blind sheik, tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993, an action that left death and injury in its wake.
Stewart made representations to the U.S. attorney during the Rahman trial that she needed repeated access to her client to carry out a defense. Instead, she transmitted messages from him to the Muslim Brotherhood back in Cairo, a fundamentalist group that murdered Anwar Sadat and has been busy cleansing Egypt of Coptic Christians.
At SFSU, Stewart was hailed as a civil rights attorney. But her delivery service had nothing to do with civil rights. Had Rahman and his followers succeeded in their goal of transforming America into a Sharia-dominated society, Stewart and the useful idiots at SFSU that rose to applaud her would be among the first to go.
There is no question that even a convicted felon has the right to speak. Whether a university should extend that right is not a question of law, but one of judgment.
And when advocacy crosses the line into taxpayer-funded political action, what then is a university's responsibility?
That's the issue being raised by the AMCHA Initative, a group that defends Jewish students from the rising tide of campus anti-Semitism. Almost predictably, the issue involves SFSU.
According to documents AMCHA obtained under the California Public Records Act, SFSU Professor Rabab Abdulhadi flew on state money to the Middle East, where she met with members of Department of State designated terrorist organizations.
Professor Abdulhadi had earlier been in the news for being the faculty advisor to the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS), whose president posted a threatening video on YouTube, while wielding a knife. The incident is being investigated by the FBI.
Abdulhadi had secured faculty funding to present a conference paper at the American University in Beirut, but months before her trip, she had been dropped from the conference.
The AMCHA Initiative, along with other pro-Israel groups including the Simon Wiesenthal Center's campus outreach program, alleges that the taxpayer-funded trip was described in emails as being a designed for political activism to further Abdulhadi's involvement in the anti-Israel boycott campaign.
Abdulhadi and her entourage met with Leila Khaled, convicted hijacker and the most infamous member of the terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an organization started by George Habash, the father of modern airline hijacking. More than 20 United States citizens have died as a result of their attacks. Khaled is venerated, in the twisted logic of the left, as the first woman airline hijacker.
If a Palestinian professor who is an activist and appears unconcerned about the appropriate distinction between a real freedom fighter and thugs that kill and target innocent people wants to bond with them for purposes of legal political advocacy back in America, that is her right (up to a certain point, in any case -- as the Stewart affair tells us). She should be free to travel wherever she wants and see whomever she wants. If she wants to stand on the public square at SFSU and advocate terrorism that too would be her right.
But if she takes taxpayer funds for her political activities and if she indeed concealed the true intention of her trip from her university superiors, as AMCHA alleges, then she has no place on a university campus. She then would be an activist masquerading as a scholar and teacher, and she is abusing her professional situation and exploiting California taxpayers at a time when higher education is in a financial crisis.
But rest assured, nothing will come of this. Leftist faculty members believe it is their god-given right to change their students' values through indoctrination, and that the "evil, capitalist, racist, sexist, and homophobic" system should be destroyed from within, preferably with taxpayer funding. The symbiosis between leftist radicals and the "oppressed" Palestinians is a common part of the campus narrative.
I expect that some time in the next academic year, Professor Abdulhadi will be back in the classroom preaching the same Marxist/Jihadi ideology. This entire episode will be yesterday's news. And once again the solons in Sacramento will tell the taxpayers there just isn't enough money for higher education in the state.
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati and co-author of, On Strike . . . Shut It Down: The Crisis at San Francisco State College, one of the most widely reprinted articles on the 1968 conflict. He is an editorial essayist whose work has appeared in both electronic and print media.