Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Free speech threatened when speakers are attacked

By George Beres
(652 words)

Free speech is indivisible. Yet we witness a growing effort to diminish that freedom nationwide. Here in Eugene, Ore., we see it in resistance to a forthcoming public appearance by historian, Mark Weber, editor of the Journal of Historical Review.

Spoken words of Weber and of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu may vary in their importance. But the freedom for them to speak, and for us to hear, should have equal merit. Ominously, recent developments on the college campus suggest that freedom-- our freedom-- is threatened.

Tutu's scheduled talk in Minnesota is the center of controversy that has mushroomed in higher education over cancellation of a number of speakers at universities because of alleged critical attitudes toward Israel. At the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., Tutu, 1984 Nobel Peace laureate, had been invited to speak next spring.

Following a pattern of behavior in academia nationwide, St. Thomas withdrew its invitation, it said, for fear it might offend local Jews. It has happened in recent months at the University of Montana, Barnard College, DePaul University, and with the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. In each case, a professor has been cancelled as a speaker or denied tenure because of allegations of anti-Semitism...

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George Beres is founding director of the University of Oregon Speakers Bureau.

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