The American Civil Liberties Union issued an open letter on Wednesday to U.S. college and university presidents urging them to defend students’ free speech rights and not pursue investigations of campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine.
The organization’s letter was in response to an Oct. 26 open letter to more than 200 university presidents from two Jewish advocacy groups, the Anti-Defamation League and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, alleging that the SJP chapters are providing material support to Hamas, a designated terrorist group, and calling on the administrators to investigate the student groups.
The ACLU letter states that institutions have a “responsibility to address discrimination” but urges presidents and chancellors not to “disband, or penalize student groups on the basis of their exercise of free speech rights.”
The dueling letters reflect the deep disagreements and recrimination roiling college campuses across the country in the wake of the war between Israel and Hamas.
“The experience of our country’s universities during the McCarthy era demonstrates that ideologically motivated efforts to police speech on campus destroy the foundation on which academic communities are built,” the ACLU letter states. “A college or university, whether public or private, cannot fulfill its mission as a forum for vigorous debate if its leaders initiate baseless investigations into those who express disfavored or even loathsome views.”