Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Israel Matzav: Freedom of speech for me but not for thee

Freedom of speech for me but not for thee

Now that the PC thought police have ensured that Tony Kushner will get his honorary degree from the City University of New York, they're going after the other side of the equation and trying to shut down Jeffrey Wiesenfeld by kicking him off CUNY's Board of Trustees (Hat Tip: Dan F). The CUNY faculty union renewed its calls for the trustee, Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, to step down, while CUNY officials said they had received dozens of e-mails — including some form letters — demanding his removal.

Barbara Bowen, president of the union, the Professional Staff Congress, which represents 22,000 faculty and staff members, said the honorary degree was the latest episode in which Mr. Wiesenfeld had inserted himself inappropriately in university activities.

In 2001, he called participation in an October “teach-in” sponsored by the union about the 9/11 attacks “seditious.” In 2006, he blasted a book that Baruch College had chosen for its freshman reading, “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning,” by Chris Hedges, calling it “deeply offensive” and “anti-Semitic.”

“That’s overstepping one’s role as a trustee,” Dr. Bowen said. “There’s a consistent pattern of vilifying students and particularly faculty whose political views he objects to. He is entitled to his political views, but to use those views to interfere with academic freedom is not acceptable.” Jeffrey Goldberg suggests that the people at CUNY need to learn to get along.

Perhaps everyone in the CUNY universe should simply learn to live with objectionable views. And perhaps the CUNY board should consider whether it wants to turn Jeffrey Wiesenfeld into a free-speech martyr, just as Wiesenfeld tried to turn Tony Kushner into same.

That drew this response from one James Fallows:

The obnoxious guy at CUNY is not having his "freedom of speech" threatened.

He's having his presence on the board called into question. Freedom of speech is a right; membership on the board is a privilege. FWIW.

Silly me. I thought that getting an honorary degree was a privilege and not a right too.

Israel Matzav: Freedom of speech for me but not for thee

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