Who wants to "stifle" free speech on campus, and who wants to protect it? In their Nov. 21 op-ed on The Hill's Congress Blog ("Stifling of free speech on campus"), Sondra Hale and Bekah Wolf criticize the Louis D. Brandeis Center's efforts to ensure that federally funded Title VI outreach programs provide the "diversity of perspectives" that the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) already requires. Apparently, they believe that the First Amendment protects them against the unappetizing prospect of hearing views different than their own.
Hale and Wolf argue primarily that our "true intentions" must be the opposite of our actual proposal. We have argued, both in these pages ("Title VI and Campus Bias," Sept. 19, 2014) and elsewhere, that the HEOA's "diverse perspectives" should be enforced if possible; and if this is not possible, then the program should be defunded. When Middle East Studies centers refuse to provide a podium for speakers who challenge their anti-Israel politics, they are the ones who stifle free speech on campus.
Hale and Wolf are right to observe that we have relied in part on the AMCHA Initiative's eye-opening finding that 93 percent of Israel-related events at one Title VI program reflected anti-Israel bias. (The program is co-directed by Dr. Hale.) They should see this as a wake-up call. Instead, they quibble about whether these anti-Israel speakers are also anti-Semitic — a question that is troubling although not pertinent to the HEOA's requirements. Maybe these lecturers are anti-Semitic, and maybe they are just misguided. Either way, they do not reflect the "diversity of perspectives" that HEOA already requires.
Hale and Wolf also argue that permitting pro-Israel scholars to speak would be as bad as providing "pro-North Korea" programming. The fact that they could seriously write such nonsense suggests some of the problems that arise when academics insist on hearing only from people who share their own worldviews. There is a wealth of academically respectable literature that supports Israel's positions on various issues; it is just hard to find them in Title VI outreach programs. When it comes to academically respectable literature supporting North Korea, there is not so much.
In short, Hale and Wolf are engaged in Orwellian doublespeak. They insist that our campaign to ensure viewpoint diversity in Title VI outreach programs will somehow silence academia's Israel-haters. Perhaps they are afraid that greater inclusion will squelch efforts to prevent students and the public from hearing ideas that are different than their own. We do not think that such efforts should be suppressed, but we do think that they should be revealed for what they are.