MSE speaker controversy raises issues of free speech, values

By EDITORIAL BOARD

As part of the Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium lineup, renowned lawyer Alan Dershowitz is scheduled to speak on Nov. 10. Early this week, however, a coalition of student groups drafted a petition expressing their objections with the lawyer’s presence on stage. The petition identified concerns over Dershowitz’s professional record, academic honesty and personal character. In short, the petition accuses him of trivializing sexual assault and plagiarizing large sections of his book The Case For Israel, and expresses discomfort with his past statutory rape allegations. And while the number of signatures on the petition grows, the Editorial Board is split on this nuanced issue.

As a newspaper, we understand the importance of the freedom of speech. We place a tremendous amount of value in this right and because of this, we are always weary of censuring people we do not agree with. Everyone has a voice and a story and the right to speak freely. However, this situation does not solely revolve around the issue of freedom of speech. Being chosen as an MSE speaker is an enormous honor. On Nov. 10, he will be standing on the stage of our largest auditorium, behind a podium bearing the seal of the University, funded by the University. No, his presence as a speaker does not suggest MSE supports or agrees with his views, but he was still one of only a few selected to have the privilege to speak.

At the end of the day, the question becomes this: do we want to honor this man so deeply?

On the one hand, the man is an extremely accomplished lawyer with years of experience and an extraordinary amount of knowledge. He will likely speak to us as a Middle East scholar, sharing with us valuable information and stories that we may never hear from anyone else. Personal grievances and professional history aside, some of us just want to hear what he has to say. If it has to be as one of MSE’s few speakers, then so be it. Our opinions on his conduct as a lawyer and as a person do not and should not matter; if we silence someone who we disagree with, then there really is no free speech at all.

On the other hand, how can we host a speaker whose character and actions are in direct conflict with the values of the University? As a community of learners, we should have absolutely no tolerance for plagiarism. An academic honesty paragraph has been in every one of our syllabuses and on every one of our tests. While letting Dershowitz speak is certainly not endorsing plagiarism, allowing him to be an MSE speaker on our stage in our University is tacitly accepting his actions in the past. Frankly, some of us on the Editorial Board are uncomfortable with that, and we are not alone.

Ultimately, while we could not come to a definitive consensus on this issue, we deemed it too important not to editorialize. We do agree, however, that this situation is nuanced and that students need to understand the issue before making a decision or signing the petition. Both sides of the debate have their merits, and we look forward to seeing what the collective undergraduate population decides.

Editor’s Note: Rachel Biderman, Managing Editor, is a member of MSE. She was not involved in the writing or editing of this editorial.

Advertisements

2 responses to “MSE speaker controversy raises issues of free speech, values

  1. “If this is the trash that the Newsletter editors produce, then so be it.”
    —is my response to “If it has to be as one of MSE’s few speakers, then so be it.”
    “On the other hand, how can you write a more pathetic editorial?”
    —is my response to “On the other hand, how can we host a speaker whose character and actions are in direct conflict with the values of the University?”

    Please read a “real news article” here: https://nlonthedl.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/dershowitz-petition-lacks-validity/comment-page-1/#comment-414
    Teddy for Editor-In-Chief !!!

    Like

    • I wonder if the moderator will post my disparaging comment?
      Was the statement, “if we silence someone who we disagree with, then there really is no free speech at all,” worth anything?

      Like

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s