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Vanderbilt Leader: Universities Must Uphold Institutional Neutrality to Allow for Debate

By Vanderbilt University Chancellor Daniel Diermeier:

It was only a matter of time, but issues surrounding freedom of speech and institutional neutrality have erupted on American campuses again —this time in relation to Hamas’s horrific acts in Israel. 

Harvard experienced backlash when a number of student groups published a statement blaming Israel for “all the unfolding violence,” but the university failed to immediately put out an official statement. Former U.S. Treasury secretary and former Harvard president Lawrence Summers publicly castigated the university for its silence, noting that the university had issued statements in support of Ukraine after its invasion by Russia and following George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police. 

At the University of Pennsylvania, billionaire alumnus Marc Rowen has called for the school’s president and board chair to step down after what he deemed to be an insufficient response to Hamas’ atrocities, which came on the heels of a controversial Palestinian literary festival at the university earlier in the fall.

“I hope UPenn's leadership … consider why they were unable to rise to a simple challenge and condemn hatred of Jews versus everything else the academic community has chosen to condemn,” Rowen wrote. 

In both cases university leadership followed up with denunciations of Hamas’ actions, but the conflict continues, with high-profile donors vowing to stop supporting their universities moving forward.

Read the rest of the article in The Tennessean.