More than 300 presidents and chancellors from universities around the nation signed a statement supporting intimidation-free campuses that was published in the Oct. 7 New York Times.
Distributed by the American Jewish Committee, the statement called for maintaining academic standards in the classroom and sustaining an intimidation-free campus. It supported the ideas of classroom discussions based on sound ideas and campus debates conducted without threats, taunts or intimidation.
It also specifically mentioned "students who are Jewish or supporters of Israel's right to exist – Zionists" having received threats, and "property connected to Jewish organizations" being "defaced or destroyed." The statement then went on to say, "These practices and others, directed against any person, group or cause, will not be tolerated on campuses."
The Akron Jewish News contacted five local university presidents to find out whether they had been asked to sign the statement. Four out of the five had been contacted.
Edward Hundert, president of Case Western Reserve University, did sign the statement, but was not available to comment on his decision. Here's what the remaining four presidents had to say about the issue.
"I thought signing it was an expression of my own values, but also the way the institution would want itself to be reflected. The idea of an intimidation-free campus is almost like mother and apple pie. I can't see why you wouldn't want to get on board with that. I think my culture supports it."
Michael Schwartz, president
Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio
"I really struggled with it and decided not to sign it. Depending on how you read it, the use of the term ‘Zionism' can veer into the political and could be a source of conflict and controversy. It could engender conflict on a campus that might otherwise not have had any."
Richard Scaldini, president
Hiram College, Hiram, Ohio
"I declined to sign it. We have a university policy that clearly states our position. We really need to be talking about the larger issue and not to be singling out one issue."
Carol Cartwright, president
Kent State University, Kent, Ohio
"I was not contacted and asked to sign the statement. I have not read the statement, so can't say whether I would have signed it. In broad, general terms, I agree with the concept of intimidation-free campuses."
Luis Proenza, president
University of Akron, Akron, Ohio