Randall L. Kennedy

By Randall L. Kennedy

Everything Wrong with the Legal Complaint Calling Harvard Antisemitic

“What’s happening to Jewish students and faculty at several elite campuses is so comprehensive and all-consuming that it can only be described as systemic antisemitism,” wrote New York Times columnist David A. French last week.

In reaching this sweeping conclusion, French relied heavily on a complaint filed in federal court against the President and Fellows of Harvard College. The complaint alleges that Harvard has discriminated against Jews and subjected them to a hostile environment, thereby violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

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It’s Alright to Demand the Disinvitation of Speakers

The scenario is familiar: A university invites a speaker to campus that outrages some sector of the community. Perhaps the guest is Ann Coulter, Angela Davis, or Mohammed El-Kurd. Angered or disappointed, protestors demand that the invitation be withdrawn.

Many free speech advocates categorically denounce campaigns to disinvite speakers, pointing to such protests as evidence of moral and intellectual rot. They decry even more harshly authorities that rescind invitations, portraying them as shameful cowards.

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Free Speech Aids Racial Justice. Activists Must Defend It.

Many legal protections are grouped under two related but distinct categories: civil liberties and civil rights. The former, which includes the right to freedom of speech, protects individuals from oppression. The latter prevents wrongful discrimination against groups based on race, religion, national origin, or other attributes.

On many issues, devotees of civil rights and civil liberties coalesce. Sometimes, however, they diverge.

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The Constitution Need Not Decide How Harvard Regulates Speech

Nearly forty years ago, then-University President Derek C. Bok wrote an open letter championing a libertarian ethos of free speech at Harvard that would satisfy even its most ardent defenders. His views, he noted, were “in keeping with the main lines of Constitutional thought.”

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