Robbie Majzner makes a great point in the Spectator today: Hate Speech is Free Speech, but that still doesn’t make it right. I agree with him: this situation is a complicated one. On one hand, you have students whose right to participate in the academic community was taken from them in a spate of professorial abuse of power, simply because they had a view on the subject in class that the professor did not want to entertain. On the other hand you have a few professors teaching hate–which may be protected by the First Amendment and the right to Academic Freedom, but that does not make them acceptable within a community that should foster an anti-racist atmosphere to encourage the participation of all groups in dialogue.
Robbie makes the point well here:
One of the things I learned from studying in the presence of so many post-colonial theorists and anthropologists is the danger inherent in labeling a nationality or any group of people. Edward Said’s Orientalism exposed the West’s tendency to think of people of the Orient as “the Other,” as something that is beneath the culture of the West. Said showed that this tendency was not only academically sloppy, it was morally intolerant. Professor Dabashi seems not to have learned this lesson. Challenge Israel’s policies—fine. Call Israel a racist state—sure, that’s your opinion. But how dare you label all people of the Israeli nation, including my friends and family, as possessing a “vulgarity of character?” Professor Dabashi, while your freedom to teach your political viewpoint must be protected, your bigoted statement should mark you as a racist.
But, my fellow Columbians, I am not writing only to express my dismay with Professor Dabashi. I am writing because I am disheartened by the response of our community. On our campus, students are so in love with their professors and the intellectualism they exude that they choose not to see when those professors do or say something that is blatantly wrong. The plain truth is that if a professor had made the same comments about blacks, Muslims, or Chinese, he would have been rightfully attacked by a plethora of students denouncing his racist and colonial attitude. The lack of response from current students, especially those who are closely associated with Professor Dabashi and the MEALAC department, is a shame and will stain the University in my mind for years to come.
I only hope that the community does not continue to let Robbie down.