Tenure Shields Professor From the Consequences of Hate Speech

Posted on October 30, 2011 by

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KENT STATE UNIVERSITY — On Monday evening, KSU students were treated to a presentation by Ishmael Khaldi, a rising star in the Israeli diplomatic corps. Khaldi has served as Israel’s deputy consul general to the Pacific Northwest, and he currently serves as a political adviser to Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. He is currently on tour to promote his new book, A Shepherd’s Journey: the story of Israel’s first Bedouin diplomat, which tells the story of his journey from living in a tent until he was eight years old to becoming the first high-ranking Bedouin-Muslim official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Unfortunately, presentations such as this one do not often proceed without a hitch in today’s political environment. Khaldi’s narrative was marred by the slanderous interjections of a professor at the university, Julio Pino — yet another tactless and factless detractor of all that Israel does. However, unlike the Irvine 11, this confused mercenary of misinformation will be protected from any repercussions by his position as a tenured professor at the university.

After Khaldi finished the lecture portion of the presentation, he initiated a Q&A session. History professor Julio Pino was the first to raise his voice. The altercation proceeded as follows, as reported KentWired.com:

Pino asked, “How can the Israeli government justify providing aid [to countries like Turkey] with blood money from the deaths of Palestinian children?”
The crowd fell into an awkward silence as the two continued to exchange words from across the auditorium.
“It is not respectful to me here,” Khaldi said.
Pino responded by saying “your government killed people” and claimed Khaldi was not being respectful to him.
“I do respect you, but you are wrong,” Khaldi said. “It’s a lie.”
The exchange ended as Pino stormed out of the auditorium shouting “Death to Israel!”
One person in the crowd retaliated by shouting “Shame on you!”

Incidentally a UCLA graduate, Pino apparently has a history of provoking controversy. In 2002, Pino penned on opinion piece in the KSU newspaper in which he praised the actions of Ayat al-Akras — a teenage suicide bomber who killed two Israelis in a Jerusalem supermarket in March of that year.  In 2007 Pino was a contributor to the weblog Global War, a self-described “jihadist news service” that provided “battle dispatches, training manuals, and jihad videos to our [Muslim] brothers worldwide.” The now-defunct website regularly called for the mass murder of Jews and American soldiers; it supplied readers with explicit bomb-making instructions; and it declared support for the Taliban and al Qaeda.

This event comes shortly after the publication of an article in Moment Magazine titled, “Is Tenure Bad for the Jews?” Therein, author Naomi Schaefer Riley points out that although tenure is theoretically meant to afford “academic freedom” to professors and their students, it also guarantees impunity to those professors who preach Holocaust denial and hatred toward Israel in the classroom.

Pino will reap the rewards of his tenure and escape this incident, which the National Conference on Jewish Affairs interprets as a call for genocide on an American university campus,  nearly unscathed. He will remain in his position, molding the minds of the next generation.

One redeeming consequence of Pino’s unprofessional and destructive behavior was the response of the university’s president, Lester Lefton. In an official statement, Lefton wrote:

“We value critical thinking at this university and encourage students to engage with ideas that they find difficult or make them uncomfortable,” Lefton said. “We hope that our faculty will always model how best to combine passion for one’s position with respect for those with whom we disagree. Calling for the destruction of the state from which our guest comes (as do some of our students, faculty and community members) is a grotesque failure to model these values.”

Do you think that the president’s response is enough? Would the censorship of statements like Pino’s be an infringement on the right to free speech at universities? How can we preserve the academic freedom that tenure secures without allowing educators to abuse that power?

Your thoughts are most welcome in the comment section below.

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Posted in: Education, Israel, UCLA