Statement | Freedom of Expression

An ACTA Message to College Trustees: Do Not Allow Your Campuses to Become Havens for Antisemitic Violence and Harassment

April 23, 2024

College campuses across the country continue to be in turmoil today as uncivil demonstrators block doors, harass students, and threaten administrators with further unrest unless their demands are met. This is a disgrace that further erodes confidence in higher education. Students have robust rights of free speech and assembly with which to make their voices heard. They may march; they may chant. They do not have any right to disrupt learning and bring campus business to a grinding halt. And they certainly do not have the right to harass and intimidate Jewish community members. The behavior on and around a growing number of campuses over the last several days has been shocking and shameful.

“It is good that administrators at Columbia University and Yale University have finally taken some action to restore order on their campuses,” said ACTA President Michael Poliakoff. “But they have not acted decisively enough. At Yale, students who were arrested in the morning were released and allowed to return to campus the same day to disrupt a major intersection. Columbia has failed to bring an end to a protest that has forced classes online because the university cannot guarantee its students’ safety. Barnard College has already told suspended students with no previous record of misconduct that their suspensions will be lifted if they agree to behave. Students are routinely punished severely for plagiarism or sexual harassment: Creating a hostile environment in which their peers cannot pursue their education is far worse. Placating and mollycoddling students for shouting down speakers and disrupting events has gone on for years. It is the fault of college administrations around the country that their students cannot differentiate between genuine civic engagement and the politics of the illiberal mob. Administrative fecklessness has left students ignorant of their appropriate political voice and thirsty for illegitimate powers that have no place in a free society.”

Dr. Poliakoff continued, “ACTA calls on trustees and alumni to make their voices heard. They need to tell college administrators at Yale, Columbia, Barnard College, New York University, the University of Michigan, Emerson College, Tufts University, MIT, the University of California–Berkeley, and other institutions around the country that a minority of radicalized students must not be allowed to flout the official campus rules with utter impunity. Uncivil actors must not be allowed to harass and demean students based on their ethnicity, their religion, or their political commitments. On this day, the beginning of the Passover holidays, campuses must not become havens for antisemitic violence and targeted harassment. We call on administrators at these institutions to restore order to their campuses. Then perhaps they will consider doing their actual jobs for once and teach their students how to engage productively and legally in democratic politics in a free society. In addition, and perhaps most important, governing boards must not retain administrators who can neither maintain order nor protect their students. It will be their duty to replace them with competent leadership.”


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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