CAMERA Op-Ed: Brown University Sends a Message that Extremism Works

(A slightly different version of this article first appeared at The Algemeiner on May 3, 2024.)

At Brown University, extremism works. The tale of how the university’s leadership responded to two very different sets of concerns clearly demonstrates this.

Begin with the first set of concerns raised. Last year, CAMERA authored two reports highlighting serious issues of antisemitism and extremism at Brown University. These reports, which contained copious amounts of evidence of faculty and departments systematically indoctrinating students in their radical, political worldviews, were sent directly to Brown University’s leadership, including President Christina Paxson. They documented how university professors, events, and journals were openly spreading blood libels about “Jewish mobs…thirsty for Palestinian blood,” glorifying Hamas and other terrorists, and even teaching students that Jewish identity is nothing but a colonial conspiracy.

Our letters to Paxson not only highlighted these issues, but also made clear our willingness to work with the university to help address these issues in a cooperative manner. We know that students and alumni also raised our reports and other concerns with the university. We also know that Paxson privately acknowledged to some that our reports “reflect broader concerns about whether universities like Brown maintain integrity and balance in their programming and scholarship on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

And yet, Paxson refused to publicly engage on these issues. More importantly, she refused to address the serious ethical questions raised regarding anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hatred being promoted at her university’s Center Middle East Studies.

Contrast that with Paxson’s response to the displays of extremism and antisemitism pervading the anti-Israel demonstrations on and off campus, including the encampment on the university’s “Main Green” lawn.

That extremism and antisemitism, which Paxson was warned about, and which had been fostered by her own faculty members, blew up in her face.

These “anti-Israel” demonstrators have not just repeatedly violated university rules by setting up camp on university property and violating other reasonable policies. They have spent months engaging in hateful, extremist displays.

A statement put out by dozens of Brown University student organizations on October 11, 2023, describing the mass murder, rape, torture, and mutilation of Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists as a “just” act and legitimate “resistance.” (Click to expand)

Just days after Palestinian terrorists butchered and raped their way through Israeli communities, dozens of student organizations described the atrocities as a “just” act and as legitimate “resistance.” At the same time, Brown University’s Students for Justice in Palestine was organizing rallies, where signs openly declared such “resistance” was “justified” and featured calls to free “political prisoners” (i.e., terrorists) and even genocidal slogans. Jewish institutions at Brown have been threatened, and chants of “Glory to our martyrs” – a chant literally glorifying terrorists – have rung out on university grounds, as Jewish students have been subject to an assortment of antisemitic and intimidating behavior.

To her credit, Paxson has refused to drop criminal charges against a number of demonstrators who violated the law. That decision should be applauded.

And yet, she caved to their demand to advance a discriminatory boycott, divestment, and sanctions vote against the Jewish state in an upcoming meeting of the Brown Corporation.

Think about these actions.

An image posted by the Brown University Students for Justice in Palestine featuring a sign declaring “resistance is justified.” (Click to expand)

On the one hand, Paxson refused to publicly acknowledge and address serious concerns of antisemitism and extremism brought to her in a professional, respectful manner.

On the other hand, Paxson caved to those who raised their concerns by breaking the law, violating university policies, and polluting the campus with violent and hateful rhetoric.

And to be clear, we know that those professors CAMERA identified in its reports have been involved in stoking this behavior.

It raises obvious questions. Why should students bother composing well-reasoned and well-evidenced arguments? Why should students follow the rules, abide by the law, and engage in respectful dialogue? When seeking change at Brown University, under Paxson’s leadership, those methods clearly don’t work.

Is breaking the law and university policies the only way for Jewish students and alumni to have their concerns taken seriously, too? Instead of treating the university administration with respect, should they also have marched through campus chanting genocidal slogans?

Two things are certain, though. First, as American universities are aflame with extremism, antisemitism, and lawlessness, universities have only themselves to blame for the decades-long promotion of faculty members who abuse their role to indoctrinate students in “resistance”. Second, by rewarding bad behavior over respectful dialogue, Paxson et al are sowing the seeds of yet more chaos and lawlessness.

Comments are closed.