- The Washington Times - Monday, November 23, 2015

Alan Dershowitz, a prominent Harvard Law School professor and author, penned an op-ed Sunday slamming college students across the country who seek to create campus-wide “safe spaces,” which he believes will lead to a sterile learning environment.

Mr. Dershowitz cited a recent incident at Dartmouth College when dozens of Black Lives Matters protesters took over a campus library and shouted racial epithets at the students studying there. He also mentioned an incident at Yale University when protesters allegedly spat on attendees of a free speech event.

“One of the central demands repeated by protesters at campuses across the country has been for university administrators to transform campuses into safe spaces,’ where students are protected not only from physical violence but also from ideas that they find threatening or offensive,” he wrote. “However, the ‘safe spaces’ envisioned by these protesters seem to matter only when the interests of those who share their political persuasions are affected.”

“’[S]afe spaces’ rhetoric has been used by students to insulate themselves from ideas that they deem offensive,” Mr. Dershowitz added.

Meanwhile, he argued, there has been “conspicuously” little attention paid to incidents of anti-Semitism reported on college campuses.

“Where are the cries for safe spaces for Jewish students faced with such blatant intimidation?” Mr. Dershowitz, who is Jewish, asked.

“The hypocrisy of protestors demanding protection from potentially offensive ideas while simultaneously insulting and harassing people who fail to demonstrate adequate levels of enthusiasm for their agenda should be obvious to all. But too few university administrators and faculty call out these hypocritical students for their double standard,” Mr. Dershowitz continued. “Let’s be clear: All students should be made to feel physically safe on campus. They should also be protected from verbal abuse. Colleges should attempt to foster an inclusive and tolerant environment that allows individuals of varied backgrounds to feel comfortable discussing a wide range of intellectual, social and political topics.

“As such, school administrators should condemn racist incidents, such as those that occurred at the University of Missouri. They should address allegations of anti-Semitic abuse at places like CUNY and Vassar with equal seriousness,” he wrote. “Students subjected to abuse or intimidation should be offered support services, and that may even entail setting aside ‘safe spaces’ where they can find peace and quiet, access peer support groups and counseling services.

“However, such safe spaces must not be extended to campuses as a whole. Classrooms in particular must not become intellectually sterile environments, where ideas are subjected to censorship based on the fact that they make some students feel uncomfortable,” Mr. Dershowitz concluded. “To the contrary, universities should foster discussions of controversial ideas, subversive ideas, ideas that provoke and challenge students to question their beliefs and preconceptions. That process is central to learning and intellectual progress more generally. Safe spaces rhetoric must not be allowed to undermine it.”

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