A letter sent by the Anti-Defamation League advising college and university officials on how to respond to anti-Israel action on campus has some free speech advocates worried about a chilling effect. The letter calls out American Muslims for Palestine in particular, and the group’s “Day of Action” planned for September 23. The group is asking that colleges eliminate study abroad programs to Israel, ban administrators traveling to Israel, and not allow scholars to participate in research with Israeli academics. In its letter, the Anti-Defamation League called the event “an effort to isolate and demonize” Jewish organizations. “We have a long history of fighting for the ideals of individual expression and the free exchange of ideas, even when we disagree with the ideas being exchanged,” Seth Brysk, the organization’s Central Pacific Regional Director, wrote. “However, no university should countenance attempts to discourage and suppress free speech, or harass and intimidate Jewish and other students. When this occurs, as in the examples noted above, appropriate action should be taken.”
The Anti-Defamation League recommended that institutions implement several policies, including being aware of Israeli-Palestinian debates taking place on campus, providing adequate security at events that have the potential to escalate, and sending a senior university official to “potentially hostile events” to remind those in attendance of a college’s code of conduct. The organization also implored colleges to “remember the school’s obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, particularly the responsibility of the school not only to investigate an incident, but to take prompt and effective steps to eliminate any hostile environment and to take proactive steps to prevent its recurrence.” In a statement Wednesday by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Robert Shibley, FIRE’s senior vice president, said that many of the polices “were unobjectionable” but others were cause for concern. “While senior officials are of course free to attend any campus event, requiring students hosting ‘potentially hostile events’ (whatever that means) to allow those officials to offer prefatory remarks about campus policies risks chilling speech at the event,” Shibley wrote.