Although there’s currently a humanitarian pause in the war between Israel and Hamas for the release of hostages, it is almost certain that the war will soon resume, as well as demonstrations—mostly anti-Semitic and pro-Hamas—throughout the world and in the United States as well. On America’s college campuses administrators should develop stronger policies to guarantee everyone’s safety and civil liberties, especially freedom of speech.
Having spent the last 55 years as either a student or a faculty member (or sometimes both, simultaneously) I’m especially concerned with what goes on in higher education, and so should everyone else. After all, all public colleges and universities are, by definition, financed at least in part by our tax dollars. And almost all so-called private colleges and universities also receive federal funds, whether in the form of grants or loans to students, or funds to support research or other activities and programs. Of course, all those federal funds come from the taxes We the People must pay.
So—what should schools receiving local, state, or federal dollars do to handle protests, and how should they do it?
Their first and most basic duty is to protect the physical safety of all concerned. Any faculty member, administrator, staff member, or any other employee who commits or encourages the commission of any act of violence against people or property should be fired immediately. Likewise, any “student” who commits or encourages violence as a form of protest should be expelled immediately, and all federal aid must be withdrawn.
Second, the peaceful expression of all points of view must be allowed. School presidents and their administrations should show no favoritism. They must protect the right of each faction with a particular point of view—whether pro-Israeli or pro-Hamas—to fully express its beliefs, but with the all-important proviso that neither side may block the expression of the other side’s position. Student groups which seek to block the expression of views with which they disagree should be forced to disband while decisions are made on whether to expel or otherwise punish their members (say, by withdrawing aid). School administrations which play favorites or otherwise fail to adequately protect the First Amendment rights of their students must also face consequences—for example, the withdrawal of state or federal funds.
Most campus demonstrations will be pro-Hamas and anti-Semitic. Throughout the world, and especially in America’s most elite institutions, students are being taught that Israel is a neocolonial occupying power guilty of pursuing the same policies against the Palestinian people as the white supremacist regimes of Rhodesia and South Africa pursued against native Africans. Indeed, Israel has been called an “apartheid state,” and explicit reference to the policies of the old white-ruled Republic of South Arica before the rise of Nelson Mandela. They apparently have either no knowledge or no regard for the long history of anti-Semitism endemic in Europe, culminating in Hitler’s Holocaust.
But to suppress the pro-Hamas demonstrations will create more sympathy for the would-be demonstrators, while discouraging pro-Israeli demonstrations will make us complicit in the long history of oppression and genocide conducted against the Jews. Moreover, to either strengthen or weaken the free-speech rights of either side will, in the long run, reduce our overall commitment to free speech and strengthen the power of either the government or some other political or religious faction to suppress the civil liberties of the people. So everyone’s safety MUST be protected and the First Amendment must apply to EVERYONE, no matter how noxious we might find the views of some. This is the best way to guarantee freedom of expression for all, not only during the current conflict but also for what the future will no doubt bring as well.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton from 1987 until 2023. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.