The modern university has historically striven to be an honest forum for competing ideas, freedom of speech and academic freedom. It has prided itself on being a citadel for peoples of all beliefs, persuasions, faiths and ethnic groups to come together to reason, learn and grow together in a safe and secure environment, despite the harsh realities outside the academic world. Through vibrant, honest exchanges and with academic rigor and integrity, new facts and understandings emerge from existing knowledge. The world benefits from the resultant understandings this process generates.
There have been periods in history when honest academic discussion has been severely compromised, intellectually and physically, as a result of overt and covert intimidation by governments, radical interest groups or others with hostile agendas.
These forces seek to stifle legitimate academic debate with varying forms of intimidation. These include, but are not limited to: ad hominem humiliations and deliberate historical revisionism in class; formal and informal university and extracurricular sponsored events which promote falsehoods and prejudice, grade prejudice or other formal and informal sanctions; menacing demonstrations; mob behavior, threats or actual physical attacks, incitement, hate speech and other forms of intimidation, causing unwelcome stress and harassment to members of the university community, frequently approaching if not exceeding violations of campus conduct policies and local, state and federal laws of behavior. By virtue of the inability of these constituencies to communicate and reason honestly through persuasive and rational discussion, these forces seek to impose their views by intimidation, unwarranted sanctions and, sometimes force.
Since 2002, when this statement was first published, we have seen the discussion of the Middle Eastern situation violated by many of these forms of intimidation. While these incidents occur in the classroom, professor’s offices, and as part of extracurricular activities, it has been noted that sometimes the instigators have identities and backgrounds that are obscured and who may not be members of the university community. Campus administrators and faculty must be vigilant in insuring that extremists of any type from outside the academic community-sometimes with political agendas of their own that are contrary to scholarly pursuit-are not permitted to “hijack” conversations about important issues, nor should they be able to engage in what we ordinarily would consider, incitement, intimidation or ‘hate speech’ against any groups or individuals on campus.
Academic free expression without fear of intimidation on college campuses is a fundamental right, which must be supported and which many campuses do, indeed, try to protect. Nevertheless, since 2002 intimidation has occurred against Jewish students and pro-Israel faculty and other sympathetic members of the university at San Francisco State University, University of London, Warwick University, Concordia University and Hebrew University in Jerusalem.,. Most recently we have seen this within the University of California system, University of Toronto, York University, School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London and other campuses throughout the world.
As faculty stakeholders in the modern democratic university, we will persistently challenge such behaviors until they no longer are allowed to continue to intimidate members of the campus community
To this end, SPME Board of Directors encourages faculty members, administrators, and students to challenge acts of intimidation manifest in anti-Semitic and other harassing programs which discriminate on the basis of religious orientation and ethnic origin in campus judicial systems, local, state and federal courts and agencies. SPME supports honest, constructive and resolution-oriented academic debate about the complex and difficult issues in the Middle East, including the expression of honest differences of opinion. SPME believes that people can disagree passionately on campuses, but they must do civilly and without fear of intimidation. SPME stands ready to facilitate and sponsor such discussions and programs on campus.
SPME will not support or condone any kind of intimidation. At the same time, SPME regards any form of intimidation as unacceptable and believes perpetrators of intimidation may be guilty of moral turpitude and possibly criminal behavior. SPME believes that perpetrators of such actions should be prosecuted to the full extent of appropriate university sanctions and, when applicable, the legal justice system.
Approved by the 2011 Scholars for Peace in the Middle East Board of Directors,
Peter Haas, Ph.D., Case Western Reserve University, SPME President
Judith S. Jacobson, Dr. P.H, Columbia University, SPME Vice President for Internal Relations
Stanley Dubinsky, Ph.D., Universityof South Carolina, SPME Vice President for External Relations
Ruth Lichtenberg-Contreras, Ph.D., SPME Secretary, Austria
Leila Beckwith, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), SPME Treasurer
Edward S. Beck, Walden University, SPME President Emeritus
Samuel Edelman, Ph.D., University of California-Chico, SPME Executive Director, (ex-0fficio)
Jonathan Adelman Ph.D., University of Denver
Steve Albert Ph.D., MPH, University of Pittsburgh
John R. Cohn, MD, Thomas Jefferson University
Richard Cravatts, Ph.D., Boston University
Awi Federgruen, DSc., Columbia University
Joel Fishman, Ph.D., Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Rev. India E. Garnett, M.Div., United Church of Christ
Richard Landes, Ph.D., Boston University
Kenneth L. Marcus, JD., Baruch College of the City of New York
David Menashri, Ph.D., Tel Aviv University
G.S. Don Morris, Ph.D., California Polytechnic Institute-Pomona
Donna Robinson Divine, Ph.D., Smith College
Tammi Rossman Benjamin, Ph.D., University of California-Santa Cruz
Barry Rubin, Ph.D., GLORIA Center at Interdisciplinary Center, IL
Philip Carl Salzman, Ph.D., McGill University
Ralf R. Schumann, MD, Charité Berlin
Ernest Sternberg, Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo