Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Private university functions 

Is it proper for a university to hold speaking events at which it tries to sanitize the audience? Or is it censorship?

The Brandeis administration would like to keep the event at arms length. It was an ad hoc committee of faculty and students that invited the former president. Nevertheless the university remains quite attached to the event by having to assume logistical and security responsibilities.

What is more important is whether the event will turn out to be a publicity stunt for Mr. Carter or whether it will actually be an opportunity to question his views. The event is open only to members of the press, students, faculty members, staff, and trustees. Already, though, rigorous critics are not permitted to be present at the speech. Alan Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard, who was supposed to debate Mr. Carter, will now speak at a separate event later today due to Mr. Carter's unwillingness to enter a debate with Mr. Dershowitz. Stephen Flatow, whose daughter, Alisa, was a Brandeis student killed in an Islamic Jihad bombing in 1995, says he was "privately discouraged" from attending.

Had he attended, Mr. Flatow, who endows a scholarship in his daughter's name, would have asked Mr. Carter whether he supports Palestinian violence directed against civilians. "I would have liked to stand up there and say �My daughter would have been a Brandeis graduate in the class of 1996 had she not been murdered by Palestinian terrorists. Is it ok for Palestinians to resist the Israeli occupation with murderous force?'"

Meanwhile in Virginia and Missouri, legislators are proposing bills that would require public universities to report on their efforts to assure intellectual diversity. Such bills would probably cause them never to host Mr. Carter.