On Wednesday, July 22, 2015, I was on a panel at the Annual Meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  Keynote speakers at the Annual Meeting include Scott Walker and Ted Cruz.

The topic of my panel was Freedom of Thought in Higher Education.

The panel chair was Utah State Senator Howard Stephenson, and fellow panelists Dr. Peter Wood, President of the National Association of Scholars, and Robert Shibley, Executive Director of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The panel was the best attended workshop of the day, with over 100 attendees, mostly state legislators.

William A. Jacobson Cornell ALEC Annual Meeting 2015

[L-R – Robert Shibley, Peter Wood, Howard Stephenson, William Jacobson]

My portion focused on the anti-Israel academic boycott and broader boycott movement (BDS).

About one-third of the more than 100 mostly state legislators in attendance had heard of BDS. I covered the history of BDS, which was created at the anti-Semitic 2001 Durban Conference, and how systematic academic boycotts pose systemic risk which is appropriate for narrowly tailored legislation that protects the system without unduly infringing on academic freedom and free speech. I discussed, among other things, my challenge to the tax exempt status of the American Studies Association.

ALEC has become the bogeyman of the left, with all sorts of farfetched conspiracy theories floating around surrounding the mythical powers of ALEC to drive a conservative agenda at the state level.

Numerous unions and activist groups organized a protest outside the conference hotel, with people bused in from L.A. and elsewhere.

Stop Alec Fest FB

The promotional material and lead banner of the protest declared California an “ALEC-free Zone.” There was obvious irony of having just finished a panel devoted to Freedom of Thought while protesters outside declared California free from thoughts with which they disagreed.

ALEC Protest San Diego ALEC Free Zone Banner

The protest was noisy, and well organized, with union marshalls in place to make sure no one tried to rush the hotel as they marched from a nearby park. There was heavy security outside the hotel, with police lines keeping protesters away from the entrance.

I mingled among the protesters, a mix of young people and older union folks. There also were the obligatory aging socialists.

ALEC Protest San Diego Socialist Alternative

A big portion of the speeches and protest signage was devoted to immigration and legalization of illegal aliens.

ALEC Protest San Diego Anti-Immigrant

One of the first speakers (see video below) fired up the crowd with claims that there was no such thing as illegal aliens because the border doesn’t represent anything:

“I’m here today because I was one of those immigrants that were really, really upset right now because I’m one of those immigrants, I don’t know where this government or ALEC or anybody got this illegal alien, dude. I didn’t come from out of space, you know.

So I am an undocumented immigrant that came to this country, but technically, now that I’m supposed legal because no one’s illegal, anyway, is I always tell people, it you want to get technical Tea Party, be technical about this — I didn’t cross the border, the border crossed me.”

There also were was a group of Planned Parenthood activists, one of whom was handing out flyers urging people to change their Twitter avatars to a message supporting PP.They all repeated the same line, “I can’t , of course, speak officially for the orangization” when I asked them about the recent videos of fetal organ sales. When I asked them to speak unofficially, they all declined.

ALEC Protest San Diego Planned Parenthood flyer

And then there was this:

ALEC Protest San Diego Capitalist Pig


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