An unfortunate and embarrassing incident happened today on SF State's campus.
A high profile political figure was shouted down and prevented from speaking. Many students came to hear Jerusalem Mayor Nir Birkat, as they had previously for other Hillel speakers this year representing a wide array of views. But a small group of hecklers came today solely to prevent the campus community from hearing a viewpoint they did not like. Unfortunately they succeeded.
There is a concerning trend that college campuses are not spaces where diverse viewpoints are tolerated. Recently, we have seen acts of outright hostility and physical aggression when one person did not agree with the views of another on campus.
We've tried incredibly hard at SF Hillel to be a responsible partner on campus for civil discourse, and to contribute to a more positive environment for dialogue, tolerance and education. Today's disappointing events demonstrate that one party alone cannot effect change; it requires the commitment of the entire University community to create a diverse place of learning that is tolerant, respectful and dedicated to its academic mission.
We are working with our partners on and off campus, and will provide further updates in the coming days and weeks. We will ensure that campus continues to be a space that promotes the robust exchange of ideas.
We are once again proud of our Hillel students who were not intimidated by today's interruptions. Even though the Mayor could not continue his public remarks, many Hillel students stayed to learn from Mayor Barkat in a smaller group, and to ask him their earnest and challenging questions, over the shouts of those who tried to silence them.
From Hillel International:
Hillel International joins San Francisco Hillel (SF Hillel) in expressing our outrage that Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was shouted down and prevented from speaking at San Francisco State University this evening. It is incumbent on all university leaders to ensure that diverse voices are treated with respect on campus and that attempts to forcibly prevent free speech not be tolerated.
“Colleges and universities cannot allow a vocal minority to inhibit the free speech of others and prevent the free exchange of ideas to which our higher education system is based,” said Eric D. Fingerhut, president and CEO of Hillel International. “We will work with the administration at San Francisco State University, as well as college administrators across the country, to ensure that distinguished speakers such as Mayor Barkat are welcomed on campus and given the opportunity to freely express their views.”
"Anyone who thinks that calls for violence and incitement will be able to silence us or divert us from our position is mistaken," Barkat said in response to the incident. "We will continue to build, develop and strengthen the State of Israel and within it a united Jerusalem and we will continue to voice our opinions and our legitimacy when we are invited to do so, even in places where they try to stop us."