Call to “Update Free-Speech Policies” to Address Alleged Hate Speech at Public University


I’ve seen many before, but this is from Texas Governor. Greg Abbott’s target is “antisemitic speeches.” An excerpt from the Wednesday’s Executive Order:

WHEREAS, Section 51.9315.1(f) of Texas Education Code requires that all higher
Education institutions adopt policies defining students’ responsibilities in terms of free
Expression on campus

WHEREAS Section 51.9315 (c)(2) Texas Education Code states that students
The higher education institution should not tolerate any expression that is illegal, or disrupts its operations.

WHEREAS antisemitism, and the harassment of Jewish university students in Texas will not be tolerated and I will not tolerate it;

NOW, THEREFORE, I … hereby direct all Texas higher education institutions to do the following:

Review and update the free speech policies in order to address the rise of antisemitic acts and speech on university campuses. Establish appropriate punishments including expulsion from an institution.

2. Make sure that these policies are enforced on campus and that groups like the Palestine Solidarity Committee or Students for Justice in Palestine will be disciplined for violating them.

3. Include the definition of antisemitism adopted by the State of Texas at Section 448.001 of Texas Government Code in university free speech policy to guide university staff and students on what constitutes an antisemitic statement.

Texas Government Code Section 448.001.The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance has a ‘Working Definition of Antisemitism’.” which includes, among other things,

  • Denying Jews their right to self determination, e.g. by claiming that Israel’s existence is racist.
  • Double standards: requiring it to behave in a way that would not be expected or demanded by any other democratic country.
  • Use of the symbols and images that are associated with antisemitism in its classic form (e.g., claiming that Jews killed Jesus, or blood libel), to characterize Israel and Israelis.
  • Making comparisons between the current Israeli policy and that of Nazi Germany.

As readers may have gathered, I oppose both those on either side of the political spectrum who try to ban “hate” speech at universities and those on their left. Students are entitled to free speech. Free to argue Jews do not have a “right to self-determination”, in the sense of owning their own country. But they can argue that Basques or Kurds have no such right, nor do North Cypriots or South Ossetians. They don’t. I support Israel’s existence, but it is a topic that should be open to debate like any other.

It’s obvious that the right to free speech of students cannot be limited based on judgments about how they are supposed to use “Double standards.” What would you think if, for example a university administrator decided that criticisms of Communist China should be punished because the critic didn’t hold another country to the exact same standards? They have to be allowed to make analogies. The Russian government, the Chinese government, the Hamas government or the Israeli government Whether we agree or disagree with the validity of such an analogy, Trump or Biden are both Nazis.

Students have the same right to express antisemitic sentiments as they do any other. There is No “hate speech” exemption There is no anti-Semitic speech exemption to the First Amendment.

The rules are the same in public universities. Papish v. Board of Curators (1973) The university has rejected the notion that it has the “legitimate authority” to enforce reasonable restrictions on the time, place and manner of speech, and its dissemination. You can find out more about it here. … rather than the time, place, or manner of its distribution.” And Papish The court held that the First Amendment does not allow for a dual standard to be applied in the academic community when it comes to speech content. This means a different standard is used by the government to regulate. Or, to quote Healy v. James (1972),

[T]The precedents of this Court do not allow for the idea that First Amendment protections on college campuses should be less strict than in the wider community, due to the need for order. “Quite the opposite,[t]”The protection of constitutional rights is more important than anywhere else in the American school community.”

As I have said before, universities can punish trespassing and other behaviors such as excessive noise, vandalism and blocking entrances. But they must do so without regard to the content. They also have the power of punishing true threats of criminal conduct, solicitation for illegal conduct and similar things, so long they do it fairly.  This power should be used more often.

They can’t punish “antisemitic” speech based on its antisemitic sentiments with “expulsion”, or even a lesser punishment. They cannot define criticism of Israel – no matter how misguided, or even ill motivated – as punishable antisemitic “speech.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *