January 19, 2020

San Francisco State University’s selective free speech policy

When a group of Muslim students and their leftist allies used the illegal heckler’s veto to shut down the speech by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at San Francisco State University last week, there should have been no surprise. When the campus police stood by and did nothing to preserve the right of free speech, there also should have been no surprise.

This was not the first time the institution turned the rules of law and civility on their head in order to protect the thuggery of those who share the institution’s leftist values.

SFSU for decades has been a leftist compliant school that restricts the rights of free speech to preferred minorities and leftist ideologues.

There is good reason SFSU has been designated among the top ten anti-Semitic campuses in America. For decades, Jewish students at SFSU have been verbally abused, institutionally intimidated, physically attacked, and then ground down by the administration for defending themselves.

At a 2002 anti-Israel rally, Russian-Jewish émigré Tatiana Menaker decided to hurl back some of the verbal abuse that was hurled at her. As a consequence, she was hauled before a campus administrator and expelled without a hearing. Those who slung abuse at her were not prosecuted. Thanks to legal assistance from the local Jewish community, Ms. Menaker was later exonerated.

But the message has been sent. Defend yourself against Zionist-haters, and the university will compound injury with additional injury. Hillel holds an innocuous rally for peace in the Middle East, and rather than expel the violent mob of Arab and leftist protesters shouting, “Go back to Germany where they knew how to deal with you,” the SFSU campus police escort the Jewish students off campus.

Perhaps, the warped thinking of the leftist administration was even more evident back in 2006 when SFSU College Republicans held an anti-terrorism rally, where they stomped on makeshift flags of Hamas and Hezbollah (the terrorist organization that blew up the U.S. Marine base in Lebanon).  Muslim students were outraged that a flag bearing the name “Allah” was stomped on, although Muslim groups all over the world frequently desecrate the American flag. In deference to objections, the College Republicans altered the flags. Despite the fact that desecration of any flag—including the American flag—is constitutionally protected, Sharia-compliant SFSU had the students prosecuted.

Such prosecution—known to be unconstitutional—is a mechanism to harass students who at SFSU have opinions that do not conform to the institution’s orthodoxy. It is sufficiently difficult to be a college student without having the threat of expulsion hanging over your head. After five months, and two strong communications from Freedom Integrity and Responsibility in Education, FIRE, the university backed down. Subsequently, FIRE took SFSU to court and won a decision that compelled SFSU to revise their unconstitutional civility code and pay the College Republicans’ legal fees.

Since the late 1960s, when SFSU hired Professor Nathan Hare to coordinate one of the nation’s first black studies programs, SFSU has pursued the Marxist notion that the function of a university was to unite academic learning with practice.

Of course, “practice” meant implementing the goals and aspirations of leftist causes.

When advocacy becomes the province of academia, the result is that scholarship, objectivity, and tolerance are vacated for the pursuit of political goals. Scholarship and advocacy are inherently incompatible. They seek different goals and require allegiance to different value systems.

The quintessential example of what SFSU has become is seen in the work and behavior of Professor Rabab Abdulhadi.

Traveling to the Middle East on California taxpayers’ money, Abdulhadi and her entourage met with celebrated and convicted airline hijacker Leila Khaled who, in the twisted logic of radical Muslims and their leftist allies, is revered as the first woman airline hijacker.

Khaled is the most infamous member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization started by George Habash, the father of modern airline hijacking. More than 20 innocent Americans were killed in PFLP attacks.

According to the anti-Semitism watchdog group AMACHA Initiative, Prof. Abdulhadi used state funds to meet with Leila Khaled. Even when this was exposed, the institution rallied behind Abdulhadi, disingenuously noting that she was hired as an activist; therefore, there was nothing wrong in her applying for money to present a “scholarly” paper and using the funds to meet with a convicted terrorist, a member of an organization that wantonly killed innocent Americans.

SFSU is an example of what higher education in America has become. It is an institution that nurtures pubescent fascists and permits them to silence voices with which they disagree. It is an institution that uses taxpayer money to fund a   meeting between an activist professor and a convicted terrorist who represents and organization that has American blood on its hands.

The silencing of Jerusalem’s mayor is only symptomatic of the political rot that pervades the institution and many like it. No one should be surprised by what happened or believe that it will not happen again.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center.