Motion to protect free speech indefinitely tabled.
The University of Chicago has the distinction of being recognized by FIRE as a model for free speech in higher education. At the same time, the school is home to a number of BDS activists who typically engage in the shouting down of people with whom they disagree.
This dichotomy has led to an ironic impasse on campus. While the administration is committed to free speech, some members of the student government are not. This struggle has been going on for some time.
In April, the College Council passed a resolution to divest from Israel.
The Chicago Maroon reported:
College Council Passes Resolution Recommending Divestment
College Council (CC) approved a resolution last night calling on the University of Chicago to divest from 10 companies that the resolution’s proponents say enable Israeli human rights abuses in Palestine.
The vote—eight yes, four no, and three abstaining—was preceded by a contentious debate and procedural wrangling. The packed room in Stuart was divided between supporters of the resolution, who held Palestinian flags and signs advertising RSO endorsements, and opponents, many of whom wore T-shirts that read “yes to peace, no to divest, no to BDS [boycott, divestment, and sanctions].”
The debate followed an anticlimactic presentation and question-and-answer session with Dean of the College John Boyer and Dean of Students in the University Michele Rasmussen on College Housing, sexual violence prevention, study abroad, and the Core Curriculum. Referring to the decked-out and impassioned crowd, Boyer suggested that vigorous and responsible debate was a testament to the distinctive strengths of the College’s students.
After the deans departed, debate began on the resolution. It had been amended since being introduced at last week’s CC meeting to include a condemnation of anti-Semitism and an assertion of neutrality on any eventual political settlement between Israel and Palestine.
This week, a resolution was advanced by the administration to reaffirm the school’s commitment to free speech and the student government’s general assembly tabled it, presumably because some of these same student activists want to retain their ability to shout people down.
From the Chicago Maroon:
Student Government Tables Free Speech Resolution
Last night, Student Government’s (SG) General Assembly voted to indefinitely table a resolution reaffirming the University’s commitment to free expression. Specifically, it referred to recent instances of speakers interrupted by protesters, including Anita Alvarez and Bassem Eid.
Following extensive debate, General Assembly, which is comprised of the College Council (CC) and Graduate Council (GC), first voted on a motion to reject the resolution. Eight students voted in favor of rejection, 10 voted against rejection, and eight abstained. In response, multiple members introduced a motion to table the resolution indefinitely, and only six members voted against the second motion allowing the tabling to pass.
The resolution was proposed by second-year Matthew Foldi. This resolution calls on the University administration to condemn any student who “obstructs or disrupts” free speech, including making threats to speakers on campus, and to enforce such condemnation. It cited the University’s Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression and alluded to two campus events disrupted by student protesters earlier this year.
In his presentation to the General Assembly, Foldi explained that he wrote the resolution in response to February events with Cook County State Attorney Anita Alvarez and Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist and critic of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement. Both events ended early after student protesters drowned out the speakers.
In other words, the BDS crowd likes free speech for themselves. Everyone else? Not so much.
See all of Legal Insurrection’s BDS coverage here.
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