September 15, 2023
U.S. Representative Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey has been busy lately. Not, mind you, with legislative tasks. He apparently is more interested in restricting the First Amendment.
– Last February, Gottheimer prevailed upon the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to ensure that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects religious freedom on college campuses, after a George Washington University faculty member was accused of “target[ing] Jewish and Israeli students with antisemitic speech.”
– In June, he urged the Department’s Office of Civil Rights to investigate whether City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law’s commencement speech violated Title VI due to its “antisemitic and anti-Israel” components.
– Last week, Gottheimer sent a letter to University of Pennsylvania president Elizabeth Magill condemning the university’s hosting of singer Roger Waters and former news commentator Marc Lamont Hill at a university-sponsored Palestinian literature and culture festival this September.
– On the same day, Gottheimer — who also criticized the invitation of Palestinian writer Mohammed El-Kurd to Princeton’s campus last February — sent a public letter to Princeton President Chris Eisgruber urging that a book entitled “The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability” be removed from the syllabus of a Humanities class.
In his response to Gottheimer (which you can read in its entirety HERE), Eisgruber started by invoking his commitment to the safety of Jewish students on campus and citing his personal connection to Judaism. “I am the son of a Holocaust refugee; I am a scholar of religious freedom; and my last scholarly publication before accepting the presidency was a defense of Zionism.”
Eisgruber continued: “We can achieve our mission, as a polity or a university, only if people of all backgrounds feel welcome, respected, and free to express their opinions. At Princeton, and at other great colleges and universities, we promote inclusivity and belonging in many ways, but never by censoring speech, syllabi, or courses.
“Your letter concludes by asserting that colleges ‘must protect all students, including Jewish students’ from being ‘made to feel unsafe by curricula.’ That assertion misunderstands the role of a university, where students inevitably encounter controversial and sometimes disturbing ideas. As I said earlier, Princeton will work vigorously to ensure that all students can thrive here, but not by censoring our curriculum. Your assertion also underestimates the strength and resilience of Princeton students.”
Now, Congressman, how about focusing on things like climate change, the sinful disparity of wealth in this country, and the prison-industrial complex?