Silent but apparent protests took place last night during the Kennedy Political Union's event featuring speaker Dr. Daniel Pipes. As the director of the Middle East Forum, a member of the U.S. Institute of Peace, a columnist and a writer, Pipes is a Middle East expert with a strong voice.
About thirty members of AU's Students for Justice in Palestine staged a symbolic protest when Dr. Pipes began his speech. At the moment he started, each of them tied a gag around his or her mouth. Says Adam Shapiro of Students for Justice in Palestine, "this was symbolic for the suppression of free speech" that Pipes is accused of.
After ten minutes of wearing the cloths, protesters stood up and turned their backs to Pipes. They each held up a sign that read, "Candidate Campus Watch," and slowly filed out of the room. Shapiro explains, "The goal was to highlight the suppression of speech and then to walk out, denying the credibility of this speech."
As the protestors left the room, Pipes congratulated AU for "civilized" protests. "Usually when I have audience members walk out, they walk out yelling" he said.
The reason for protests, civilized and uncivilized, is the Campus Watch program that Dr. Pipes is promoting. The goal of Campus Watch is to "monitor Middle East studies on campuses." This AU event, for which Pipes was paid, is "a kick-off of his campus watch program" at AU, says Shapiro.
Pipes claims that "Middle East studies are failing in the United States" and have caused heated campus problems. "We can benefit by critique," says Pipes. "The critique of a small think-tank called Campus Watch."
Though Pipes speaks of "freedom of speech for all" and benefits for our universities, many are still worried that his program is none other than a witch hunt for those who disagree with Bush's war policies.