Rosalie Pedalino Porter: Appreciates chancellor’s stance on conference

Published: 11/7/2019 4:17:25 PM
Modified: 11/7/2019 4:17:14 PM

Kudos to UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy for his measured statement on the coming Boycott, Divest, Sanctions conference to be held at UMass on Nov. 12.

The conference, titled “Criminalizing Dissent: The attack on BDS & American Democracy,” appears to equate any criticism of BDS as not just wrong-headed but criminal. This view is clearly intolerant of any free and open exchange of ideas.

Last August, a similar presentation was scheduled at UMass with a group of pro-BDS speakers. A lawsuit was brought to force the conference to move off campus, but a judge ruled against the suit and the event was held.

I attended the event to learn more about the BDS movement and was stunned at the scene — hundreds lining up to enter the auditorium and dozens of heavily armed guards standing around protecting us from violence. A half-dozen students holding signs protesting BDS hardly justified the heavy armor.

Several hundred people attended the entirely pro-Palestinian presentation, many cheered and applauded. There was no evidence that BDS was prevented from speaking to its mission. I left, only disappointed that no divergent opinions on Israel/Palestine were voiced.

To my great horror, that same evening the news reports featured the terrorist attack on Israel of 58 missiles launched over the border from the Palestinian side — the “peaceful” side.

Nevertheless, today I honor the good sense of our chancellor in standing firm for academic freedom of speech. Professor Jhally is entitled to his speech, his fellow professors signing letters of protest are entitled to theirs, and we in the Pioneer Valley must take comfort in the fact that speakers will not be threatened or silenced on the UMass campus.

Rosalie Pedalino Porter 

Amherst




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