In a time when dissent-trampling thought police reign supreme on most college campuses, we should praise the rare university official who insists on fairness and free expression. Witness Maud Mandel, president of Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. Last week, Mandel had the fortitude to reverse the student government’s malicious denial of recognition to a student group supportive of Israel.

To get recognition and permission to operate on equal status as all other student groups on campus at Williams, a student organization must meet a list of technical requirements. Once those conditions are met, recognition always has been routine — until late April, that is.

As reported by Brooklyn College professor K.C. Johnson in Tablet, a “daily online magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture,” the Williams College Council voted 13-8 not to recognize the Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI), which aims to build support for Israel’s cause and “educate the College on issues concerning Israel and the Middle East.”

No student organization in the past decade had been denied recognition once it met the technical requirements. So you can guess what happened here. It only makes things better that a philosophically opposite group, a branch of Students for Justice in Palestine, already received recognition. The student government’s position was that the Initiative for Israel’s views don’t merit respect on campus. As one Initiative for Israel opponent suggested rather ineloquently, the College Council should “vote out what we think are ideas we think are worthy of being discarded.”….

Fortunately, President Mandel stepped in. Maybe it helps that before entering administration she long had been a professor of history and Judaic Studies and had written numerous papers on “anti-Jewish violence.” Whether she was standing for free expression and association in general, or was just emboldened to do the right thing because she so particularly understands the issues involved, Mandel insisted that the Williams Initiative for Israel be recognized equally with other student groups….

[The full column is at this link.]


Tags: , , ,