“Moderation in the Protection of Liberty is no Virtue”

UVa police respond to disruption of Hoos for Israel event. Photo credit: Cavalier Daily

Last week members of the Brody Jewish Center and Hoos for Israel at the University of Virginia hosted an event entitled, “Building Bridges” to “promote conversation and respectful dialogue between students of different religious and political backgrounds.” It seems like some Wahoos weren’t interested in respectful dialogue. About 10 protesters entered the event in Clark Hall and began chanting pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli slogans. While no violence was reported, Jewish students felt physically intimidated. The demonstration disbanded peacefully, according to the Cavalier Daily.

There are radicals on every campus who disrupt the rights of others to express and hear views the protesters find objectionable. But not every higher-ed institution responds the same to such outbreaks of intolerance.

To UVa’s credit, Dean of Students Allen Groves sent out a university-wide email noting that the protesters violated several university policies, including those on protests and amplified sounds.

The protest, he wrote, “runs counter to our important shared values of respect and intellectual inquiry, and should be firmly rejected. … We can only learn from each other if space exists to exchange ideas freely and without disruption from those with whom we may disagree.”

But was the email missive enough? Allen’s letter strikes me as a timid response. The protesters are as likely to feel emboldened as chastened by such a wrist slap. The defenders of free speech must be as assertive and forceful as those who would violate it.

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20 responses to ““Moderation in the Protection of Liberty is no Virtue”

  1. Wait a minute. These Jews who support Israel and abuse Palestinians, when they meet like this on the Grounds, they are promulgating “Offensive Memes”. Thus they deserve the White Supremacy treatment handed out last summer and spring.

    You see how one series of lies follows quite logically an earlier series of lies? Hate to say it, but it is hard to blame the students here. They are only acting out as they have been taught. But next time, throw them out of UVA along with a few faculty, like should have been done to a bunch of those students and faculty rioting last spring and summer. That will clear the air in a hurry.

  2. Whiny spoiled snots who cannot accept any views but their own.

    At the risk of showing my age, way back when I was in law school, we had classroom debates/discussions about all sorts of issues. Ditto for discussions in the hallways or over lunch. While some got strong and emotional, there was never branding of an opponent as evil or perverse. Some of us even felt we might learn something from a classmate.

    If UVA or any other publicly supported school cannot offer an environment where students can share ideas and debate issues, why are taxpayers funding them?

    Government regulation of speech, time-place-manner, needs to be content neutral.

  3. The thing is – “protesters” can show up at any “open” campus event.

    there are dozens of these every week/month.

    what would we have the administration do? Send the police as soon as there is a “protest”?

    I dunno.. I’m asking … how would this be handled ?

    • I’m not sure how UVa should have handled the disruption. The students were not part of any identifiable group, so there’s no group that could be sanctioned. Perhaps Groves could have been more emphatic in his denunciation of the protest.

      • Why should the following actions not be grounds for a student’s immediate expulsion from UVA?

        “Rabbi Jake Rubin … said that he and student leaders invited the protesters to participate in the program and share their concerns through conversations, but the protesters declined the offer and continued to disrupt the panel.

        “While free speech and the ability to protest are important aspects of college life, we are disappointed that protesters refused to engage in conversation and instead continued to shout intimidating and hostile slurs directed at students, staff, and panelists,” Rubin’s statement read. “U.Va. is and has always been a place for the free exchange of ideas, learning from opposing views, and open dialogue.”

        Ben Borenstein, a second-year College student and active member of the Brody Center, attended the Building Bridges event. He said the protesters had a megaphone and brought literature to distribute about the history of Israeli-Palestinian relations. “I felt very threatened,” Borenstein said. “It was probably the most afraid that I’ve been in a situation at U.Va. because it was such a small classroom and it was so loud … it was very antagonistic and almost militant.”

      • When we marched on the President’s house to protest Dean Canaparty’s decision to cancel Easters, they handled the “disruption” with police and fire hoses even though the only thing we threated was the life expectancy of our beer supply.

        • Wonderful comment. This says it all. Including that the UVA administrators love to hit easy targets for ideological advantage. Like how Sullivan Administration lauded one of UVA president who back in the 1940s was said to have broken the power of the fraternities at UVa.

          And how during the Jackie affair, UVA, eager for scapegoats, targeted fraternities for an alleged crime administrators almost surely knew was highly suspect at best, thus shifted blame away from the UVA’s decades long failure to stand against the hookup culture, the harm it did all students, especially young women students.

  4. UVA = VDOT
    Clark Hall = A DMV location

    What should happen to 10 people who walk into a DMV office shouting and trying to intimidate the people trying to stay in compliance with Virginia’s laws?

    They should be arrested for disturbing the peace, handcuffed, taken to jail and charged. From there, they can post bail (or be released on their own recognizance), appear at trial and be found either guilty or innocent.

  5. I embrace Reed’s point above – those who were so happy to see the violence last summer, who refuse to see that both sides were responsible in July, have no right to complain that left-wing bullies are now doing the same thing to another group they despise. DJ is right – cuff them and haul them off, and if they are students, they become former students…..

    The email was 12 lashes with a wet noodle.

  6. It is great to see students exercising their First Amendment rights at a public open forum. If the Brody Center did not wish for these protests, they should not have invited the entire university to the event.

    I see the usual right wing snowflakes are out and whining.

    The Center could have easily closed the event. If they had done so, I’d agree with arresting the protesters. But if you open your event to the general public at a public university, you have to live with protests.

    This is not an ideological statement. I feel the same way if a left wing student group opens its event for the public and the College Republicans show up to jeer. The College Republicans should not be arrested.

    • I would agree with you that it should be OK for protesters to attend, hand out flyers, wave placards or participate in other non-disruptive ways. But when they shut down someone else’s event, such an action is antithetical to the spirit of openness and exchange of ideas that universities supposedly stand for.

  7. It’s also antithetical to our basic nominal decision-making process, both legislative and judicial: hear both sides, debate a proposed response, then vote on it. These UVa students can’t get past Phase 1, hear both sides. And, it appears we can’t get any farther with gun control. We have an event coming up in Washington on March 24 that has all kinds of potential for getting out of hand. Yet it’s occurring because one side has stonewalled the other, won’t hear the other, won’t allow any response to be debated or come to a vote, through what appear to be the moral equivalent of bribes. All those students can do is come to DC to express their frustration, and they will. Which brings me back to the frustration expressed by some protesters outraged by the Israeli Wall and settlement policies: do they have any alternative either?

    • Your comment raises the rationale behind my profound disagreement with the comment of LocalGovGuy. The hecklers veto should be outlawed. People should have the right to express themselves in public without fatal interference from others. If bullies can drive them indoors into private places to peaceable express their beliefs then, in such a case, the bullies, fascists, and Stalinist control the schoolyard, and win by violence. Our society is far too tolerant of bullies. Bullies should be punished, not rewarded for bad behavior. Shouting someone down is not free speech, it is violent speech that destroys free speech.

      • It doesn’t surprise me that you want to criminalize speech.

        • You beg the question. And you attack your own shadow projection.

          Speech has nothing to do with the illegal conduct at issue here. Quite the reverse. Speech, including free speech is what I seek to protect, and what you seek to destroy. Can’t you see that?

          Shouting other citizens down in public forums for trying to engage in free speech and forcing them out of public squares into private safe spaces before they can express themselves freely is not speech. It is thuggery.

      • I lost the edit function so will redo above.

        LocalGovGuy –

        You miss the point and beg the question. You also attack your own shadow projection.

        Speech has nothing to do with the illegal conduct at issue here. Quite the reverse. Speech, including free speech, is what I seek to protect, and what you seek to destroy. Can you not see that?

        Shouting other citizens down in public forums for their trying to engage in free speech and forcing them out of public squares into private safe spaces before they can freely express their opinions to their fellow citizens is not speech. It is thuggery. What fascists do on the road to their crimes.

        • First of all, for an alleged “attorney”, can you please point to the “illegal” conduct? Please point to a specific state or federal statute that criminalizes the protesters’ actions and speech. If you can’t, well that says so much about your “acumen”….

          Second, you wrote, “The hecklers veto should be outlawed.” That is criminalizing speech.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            What happened to those Jews at UVA was on its face as reported, illegal behavior. What happened in C’Ville last summer was illegal behavior. This society needs to recognize thug behavior for what it is and deal with it under the law, no matter the ideology involved. People who don’t speak up on these issues, and stand of the sidelines clapping and/or covering for thugs, are complicit with the fascists.

            And please, don’t suggest I should write a legal brief for you on your misguided ideology.

  8. Mr. Fawell,

    You have stated in previous posts that you are an attorney. I’m simply asking you to please provide the specific state or federal statute that criminalizes what you term as “illegal behavior” at the Brody Center.

    • Educate yourself. Start by reading the history of the fascists in the 1930s, particularly after the fall of the Wiemar Republic, then focus down on the targeting of all political opponents, using the Jews as scapegoats.

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