U.S. Civil Rights Commission calling for campus speech codes?
VOLOKH at law.ucla.edu
Mon Jun 19 14:28:26 PDT 2006
Any First Amendment thoughts on these "Findings and Recommendations ...
Regarding Campus Anti-Semitism" from the Commission (April 3,
http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/050306FRUSCCRRCAS.pdf)? As is often the case
with discussions of "harassment," it's not completely clear exactly what
kind of speech the Commission thinks violates federal law. But it seems
potentially pretty broad: It clearly includes "derogatory remarks ...
and use of Swastikas and other symbols of hatred or bigotry" (even when
that's not itself "threatening or intimidating behavior" or "vandalism,"
and might also include "anti-Israeli or anti-Zionist propaganda" that
"exploits ancient stereotypes of Jews," which the Commission labels
"Anti-Semitic bigotry" and presumably as an example of "anti-Semitic
harassment." It might also include "one-sided, highly polemical
academic presentations" (both ones that involve clearly discriminatory
behavior such as barring students from speaking because they look
Jewish, and presumably ones that are simply one-sided and highly
[Findings and Recommendations:]
The United States Commission on Civil Rights issues the following
findings and recommendations regarding incidents of anti-Semitic
harassment at college campuses throughout the Nation: ...
[Finding] 1. Many college campuses throughout the United States
continue to experience incidents of anti-Semitism.... While incidents of
threatened bodily injury, physical intimidation or property damage are
now rare, they have been alleged on some campuses. On other campuses,
students have alleged patterns of threatening or intimidating behavior,
derogatory remarks, vandalism, and use of Swastikas and other symbols of
hatred or bigotry. When severe, persistent or pervasive, this behavior
may constitute a hostile environment for students in violation of Title
VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
[Finding] 2. On many campuses, anti-Israeli or anti-Zionist
propaganda has been disseminated that includes traditional anti-Semitic
elements, including age-old anti-Jewish stereotypes and defamation. This
has included, for example, anti-Israel literature that perpetuates the
medieval anti-Semitic blood libel of Jews slaughtering children for
ritual purpose, as well as anti-Zionist propaganda that exploits ancient
stereotypes of Jews as greedy, aggressive, overly powerful, or
conspiratorial. Such propaganda should be distinguished from legitimate
discourse regarding foreign policy. Anti-Semitic bigotry is no less
morally deplorable when camouflaged as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism.
[Finding] 3. Substantial evidence suggests that many university
departments of Middle East studies provide one-sided, highly polemical
academic presentations and some may repress legitimate debate concerning
Israel. This would include, for example, any program in which a student
is told that she may not speak in a discussion of Middle East politics
on the ground that she has ethnic Jewish physical characteristics....
[Recommendation] 1. [The U.S. Department of Education Office for
Civil Rights] should protect college students from anti-Semitic and
other discriminatory harassment by vigorously enforcing Title VI against
recipients that deny equal educational opportunities to all students.
University leadership should affirm their commitment to equal
educational opportunity, including ensuring that students are not
subjected to a hostile environment on the basis of race, national origin
[Recommendation] 2. University leadership should ensure that
students are protected from actions that could engender a hostile
environment in violation of federal law. In addition, university
leadership should set a moral example by denouncing anti-Semitic and
other hate speech, while safeguarding all rights protected under the
First Amendment and under basic principles of academic freedom.
[Recommendation] 3. University leadership should ensure that all
academic departments, including departments of Middle East studies,
maintain academic standards, respect intellectual diversity, and ensure
that the rights of all students are fully protected. Federal
grant-making institutions should exercise appropriate oversight to
ensure that federal funds are not used in a manner that supports
[Recommendation] 4. [The Office for Civil Rights] should conduct a
public education campaign to inform college students of the rights and
protections afforded to them under federal civil rights laws, including
the right of Jewish students to be free from anti-Semitic harassment....
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