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April 5, 2018 10:02 am

Campus Watchdog Urges California Lawmakers to Protect Expression of ‘Divergent Ideological, Political Views’

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Photo: UC-Berkeley.

A watchdog that fights antisemitism on American college campuses has endorsed a free speech bill being considered by the California State Assembly.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, director of the AMCHA Initiative, testified on Monday before the Committee on Higher Education in favor of AB 2374, also known as the Free Speech on Campus Act of 2018. 

The bipartisan measure calls on the California Community Colleges, California State University, and University of California to issue statements underscoring the importance of First Amendment rights, and develop educational programming affirming the value of tolerance and freedom of thought and inquiry in the academy.

“Over the past year, there has been a sharp spike in acts of hatred and intolerance targeting African Americans, Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ community members, immigrants, women and individuals who hold divergent ideological and political views,” said Rossman-Benjamin, a former faculty member at the University of California.

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“Our research and monitoring indicate that this is most problematic on college campuses,” she continued, “where we find that one group’s freedom of expression is being used to denigrate, harass, intimidate and shut down the expression of another group, depriving students of their rights and undermining the very mission of a university.”

A September report by the Israel on Campus Coalition advocacy group found that anti-Zionist student activists routinely engage in “hostile disruptions of pro-Israel events” in an effort to silence dissenting voices.

“The entire campus benefits when all students are ensured equal protection from exclusionary behavior,” Rossman-Benjamin told the committee.

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