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Promoting diversity isn’t trying to stifle free speech

Who wants to “stifle” free speech on campus, and who wants to protect it? In their Nov. 21 op-ed on The Hill’s Congress Blog (“Stifling of free speech on campus”), Sondra Hale and Bekah Wolf criticize the Louis D. Brandeis Center’s efforts to ensure that federally funded Title VI outreach programs provide the “diversity of perspectives” that the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) already requires. Apparently, they believe that the First Amendment protects them against the unappetizing prospect of hearing views different than their own.

Hale and Wolf argue primarily that our “true intentions” must be the opposite of our actual proposal. We have argued, both in these pages (“Title VI and Campus Bias,” Sept. 19, 2014) and elsewhere, that the HEOA’s “diverse perspectives” should be enforced if possible; and if this is not possible, then the program should be defunded. When Middle East Studies centers refuse to provide a podium for speakers who challenge their anti-Israel politics, they are the ones who stifle free speech on campus.

{mosads}Hale and Wolf are right to observe that we have relied in part on the AMCHA Initiative’s eye-opening finding that 93 percent of Israel-related events at one Title VI program reflected anti-Israel bias. (The program is co-directed by Dr. Hale.) They should see this as a wake-up call. Instead, they quibble about whether these anti-Israel speakers are also anti-Semitic — a question that is troubling although not pertinent to the HEOA’s requirements. Maybe these lecturers are anti-Semitic, and maybe they are just misguided. Either way, they do not reflect the “diversity of perspectives” that HEOA already requires. 

Hale and Wolf also argue that permitting pro-Israel scholars to speak would be as bad as providing “pro-North Korea” programming. The fact that they could seriously write such nonsense suggests some of the problems that arise when academics insist on hearing only from people who share their own worldviews. There is a wealth of academically respectable literature that supports Israel’s positions on various issues; it is just hard to find them in Title VI outreach programs. When it comes to academically respectable literature supporting North Korea, there is not so much.

In short, Hale and Wolf are engaged in Orwellian doublespeak. They insist that our campaign to ensure viewpoint diversity in Title VI outreach programs will somehow silence academia’s Israel-haters. Perhaps they are afraid that greater inclusion will squelch efforts to prevent students and the public from hearing ideas that are different than their own. We do not think that such efforts should be suppressed, but we do think that they should be revealed for what they are.

Washington, D.C.

Blame Congress if the government shuts down

From Joanne Hafter

Obama is acting illegally. Obama is a dictator. How many times have you heard this? Before you believe these and other inaccuracies, check the facts.

From the first day, the president (and he is our legally elected president) took office, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have verbally, and with their actions, denied any properly introduced bill to proceed through the legislative process. Our last two Congresses have been the most “do nothing” in history. The immigration bill has been withheld from a proper vote for more than 500 days. Even normal, everyday bills that would allow the government to continue to work have been withheld or voted down. 

The previous shutdown was done as a protest vote by our elected GOP lawmakers. Once the shutdown started, these same people were amazed that government-operated programs were closed. Amazing! These same elected officials are threatening a repeat but putting the blame on our president because he refuses to be blackmailed. Don’t be misled, it is the elected Congress that will initiate this next shutdown.

Do your own nonpartisan research before you get angry, voice your discontent or protest. Remember, you voted these same people back into office. 

Columbia, S.C.

Bad immigration math 

From Mary Fraker

While I agree with Michael McCarthy that any non-citizens on voter rolls should be removed (“Non-citizens need to be removed from voter rolls,” Dec. 1) — indeed I believe most voting citizens would agree — my understanding of basic math does not agree with his.

Citing a recent Harvard Cooperative Congressional Election Study that found about 14 percent of non-citizens are registered to vote, McCarthy says “these 1.5 million people make up 5 percent of the electorate.” That statement would be accurate if the American electorate totaled only 30 million. In reality, more than 206 million Americans are eligible to vote, and more than 146 million are registered. 

McCarthy goes on to say of Mark Warner’s recent reelection to the U.S. Senate, “if only one-third of the 68,700 non-citizens” in Virginia voted, that was enough to tip the scales in Warner’s favor. How does McCarthy make the leap from the Harvard Study’s 14 percent to fully 33 percent?

Washington, D.C.

Is ethanol cleaner? 

From Sel Graham

Every American should know these two facts: Using ethanol emits more carbon dioxide into the air than using gasoline, and last year, an additional 4.3 million tons of carbon dioxide was emitted into the air due to using ethanol instead of gasoline.  

Austin, Texas 


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