Sunday, October 13, 2002

Colleges in Ohio, Ky. sign ad pledge

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Four university presidents in Ohio and three in Kentucky have signed a statement condemning threats against Jewish students and calling for intimidation-free campuses in a full-page advertisement this week in The New York Times.

But two Tristate schools' presidents declined to sign the statement — citing broader diversity concerns on their campuses. And three Cincinnati-area Catholic schools said their institutions were never approached for the ad.

More than 130 college presidents signed the following decree (edited here), which appeared last week in the New York Times, to stop intimidation on college campuses.
“In the current period of worldwide political turmoil that threatens to damage one of our country's greatest treasures — colleges and universities — we commit ourselves to academic integrity in two ways. We will maintain academic standards in the classroom and we will sustain an intimidation-free campus.
“Our classrooms will be open to all students, and classroom discussions must be based on sound ideas. Our campus debates will be conducted without threats, taunts, or intimidation. We will take appropriate steps to insure these standards. In doing so, we uphold the best of American democratic principles.
“We are concerned that recent examples of classroom and on-campus debate have crossed the line into intimidation and hatred, neither of which have any place on university campuses.”
Presidents at the University of Cincinnati, Miami University and Wilberforce are among the more than 300 nationwide who signed the statement, which pledges that campus debates will be conducted without threats, taunts or intimidation.

In Kentucky, presidents from University of Kentucky, Western Kentucky University and Centre College are on the list.

UC President Joseph Steger said his participation had little to do with the group that sponsored it. Rather, it was the free speech message he felt was important.

“I think people should have all the free speech we can get them,” he said. “I think everybody should be able to say what they want to say free of intimidation.”

The statement was initiated by several current and former college presidents in the wake of a series of incidents on campuses last spring in which Jewish students were targeted.

The original letter distributed to presidents came from James O. Freedman, former president of Dartmouth College; H. Patrick Swygert, president of Howard University; Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president of George Washington University; Frank H.T. Rhodes, president emeritus of Cornell University; Theodore M. Hesburgh, president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame; and, Jehuda Reinharz, president of Brandeis University.

The American Jewish Committee, an organization that works to safeguard the welfare of Jews in the United States and around the world, helped disseminate the letter and then paid for the Times ad.

“Five more presidents signed on this week, and the list will continue to grow,” said Kenneth Bandler, a spokesman for the organization.

Representatives from Xavier University, Thomas More College and the College of Mount St. Joseph said their schools were not asked to participate.

Northern Kentucky University and Ohio State University declined to sign on.

“We were asked to sign the American Jewish Committee statement, and I did not sign the statement because I believe we need to address intolerance more broadly,” NKU President James Votruba said.

He voiced the same concern expressed by presidents at other institutions who chose not to sign. That is, the statement did not include mention of threats made to Muslims or Arabs.

“Certainly I am concerned about the growing anti-Semitism not only in this nation but around the world,” he said. “I'm also concerned about the intolerance of Muslims and others around the world whose viewpoints are different from the norm.”


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