The Free Exchange of Ideas About Israel/Hamas at Brown - One Professor’s Position
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up
The New York Times recently published a letter to the editor by Felicia Nimue Ackerman, a professor of philosophy at Brown. Her letter, in its entirety, read as follows:
“Of course, the tactics of Students for Justice in Palestine “can provoke discomfort” on college campuses. So what? Although some S.J.P. tactics, such as impeding student access to classes, are unacceptable, discomfort is inevitable in institutions dedicated to the free exchange of ideas.”
Professor Ackerman and I had the following email exchange today:
“Re: Your Recent Letter to the Editor of the NYT Re Students for Justice in Palestine”
Professor Ackerman - for some inexplicable reason you seem to believe there is a “free exchange of ideas” at Brown concerning Israel/Palestinians. In fact, there are no ideas exchanged on the subject at Brown, much less any exchanged freely. There is only a narrative - Israel the oppressor, Palestinians including even Hamas, the oppressed. [cite to my Substack posts]. The narrative is agitprop inflicted on naive students and blindly accepted by far too many obviously unthinking faculty. Worse, the compensation of certain of the people at Brown relentlessly pushing the narrative is underwritten, in part, by Palestinian/Hamas supporters, apologists and enablers.
At least you sign your name to your thoughts. The junior varsity terrorists of Brown Students for Justice in Palestine prefer to cower anonymously in the shadows. What courageous kids.
[I attached an article substantiating the last sentence of the first paragraph of my email and attach it below as well.]
“If you were still at Brown, you would see that there is plenty (highlighted) of free discussion here. You might even learn that not everyone with views other than your own is “naive” or “unthinking.”
“I’ve been following and writing about the Center for Middle East Studies for several years; I read the BDH daily. Spare me the notion there’s “plenty” of free discussion on campus other than discussion freely supportive of the Hamas!(sic)Palestinian narrative. And anyone - faculty, student or administrator - buying the facially absurd proposition that Israel is always the oppressor and Palestinians are always the oppressed is not only naive and and unthinking but demonstrably unwilling or unable to engage in any serious analysis of the issues.”
“Spare me the right-wing rants. In fact, I’m sparing myself by blocking any further messages from you.”
Since she blocked my email, the good professor presumably did not see my response to her “right-wing rants” observation:
So in one short email exchange we have a microcosm of all that is wrong with what passes for education at Brown. First, we have an internally inconsistent letter to the editor of the New York Times from a long-tenured faculty member (a) suggesting that impeding student access to class is not a good thing but also really no big deal; and (b) that “discomfort” is par for the course given Brown’s supposed “dedication to the free exchange of ideas”.
My response to Ackerman expressed a diametrically opposed view about the status of free speech on campus. Her ultimate response? I was bothering her with “right wing rants” and as a result she blocked my email.
For Ackerman, “dedication to the free exchange of ideas” obviously means agreeing to the free exchange of ideas so long as the ideas are consistent with hers. And this from a philosophy professor. So much for free speech at Brown.
While my immediate reaction to Ackerman’s last email was that it was hilarious, I was wrong. Her last email was actually pathetic - a pathetic commentary on the state of education at Brown.
Willis J. Goldsmith, Brown Class of 1969