January 16, 2007 — Anyone who still labors under the delusion that U.S. colleges, particularly in New York, are free-speech havens should gaze at the adjacent letter by Pace University’s President David Caputo.

Caputo tries to portray Pace officials as honest brokers in dealings with a Jewish group, Hillel, which had hoped to show a film some Muslims find objectionable.

Yet, right from the start, the letter resorts to distortion: It claims that Hillel’s president “misconstrued the intentions” of Pace officials. Administrators, it says, merely wanted the Jewish group to “engage in a constructive dialogue” with Muslim students.

But Hillel President Michael Abdurakhmanov says school staffers actually threatened him with reprisals and even physically restrained him when he tried to defend the film. How do you “misconstrue” that kind of behavior?

In any event, if the school were truly committed to freedom of expression, the only “dialogue” needed would be to convey one simple message: Anyone thinking of disrupting the film or committing violence will face severe repercussions.

End of discussion.

Officials could have used the occasion to make it absolutely clear that no one at Pace can be barred from showing a film – even if it’s not a left-wing film. But that wasn’t the goal.

(Again, Pace is not unique in this regard. Consider how Columbia University responded to violence there last October that kept the founder of the Minutemen Project – a group favoring tough control of U.S. borders – from speaking. New York is still waiting for meaningful action.)

Indeed, Pace flack Chris Cory acknowledges that officials really were trying to can the film – supposedly until tensions over recent anti-Muslim “hate crimes” dissipated.

But instead of admitting that outright, Caputo tries to pretend the objective was merely “to start a discussion.” Please.

Sure, soothing tensions is a worthy goal. But not at the cost of free speech.

Most revealing, of course, is Caputo’s characterization of terrorism. He calls it a “contentious issue.” Is he serious? Only in the fever swamps of the far left (and in the minds of college elitists) would, say, the 9/11 attacks be viewed as events to be debated, rather than deplored.

The film Hillel wanted to show, “Obsession,” focuses on the dangers of radical Islamic militants. There is nothing – nothing – “contentious” about it.

If Muslim students – or Pace officials – feel otherwise, the problem may be worse than the film suggests.

January 16, 2007 | Comments Off on PUSILLANIMOUS PACE

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