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Alum to Vassar College President: “You owe Professor Jacobson a public apology”

Alum to Vassar College President: “You owe Professor Jacobson a public apology”

“To the eternal shame of Vassar, it appears that not a single member of the Vassar faculty or administration publicly supported Professor Jacobson or his free speech message. “

My appearance at Vassar College on October 25 to lecture on “hate speech” and free speech continues to reverberate.

For background, see my USA Today Op-Ed: My pro-free speech views made me a target at Vassar College, as well as these posts at Legal Insurrection:

The Vassar student newspaper just published an extraordinary Open Letter to Vassar President Elizabeth Bradley from an alumus. Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

Dear President Bradley,

On Oct. [24], you sent out a message [here] to the Vassar community “to help prepare” the students, faculty and administration “for tomorrow.” While you oddly included two additional and unrelated events in your message, the sole reason for “preparing” was the lecture to be given the following day by William Jacobson, professor of law at Cornell University. It was only for this event that you were “made aware of the very real and legitimate pain that students are feeling.” …

What was the cause of all this childish caterwauling? A lecture. A lecture by a law professor. A lecture by a law professor from Cornell. A lecture by a law professor from Cornell on free speech. A lecture by a mainstream, right-of-center law professor, falsely accused by H2A [student group Healing to Action] of affiliation with white supremacists and neo-Nazis. You knew all this, and yet you still stoked the fires of “real and legitimate pain” when there was absolutely nothing real or legitimate about it.

There are two problems with your message in addition to the obviously false accusations against Professor Jacobson on which it was based. The first is your acceptance, endorsement, and encouragement of the infantilization of the Vassar student body. For $68,110 per year, students deserve better than to be treated as preschoolers. In the end, this produces nothing but resentful, angry, and closeminded graduates, ashamed of their own inability to engage in cogent argument and discussion, and unable to cope with the real world. It is a terrible disservice to the lives of these young people.

The second problem is your embracement of H2A, who you profusely thanked for their “excellent and compassionate work” and for working “tirelessly and creatively to develop safety teams and plans.” …

Compare and contrast the position of H2A [on free speech] with the position of Mr. Jacobson. Professor Jacobson is no provocateur. Not a single utterance in his lecture was outside mainstream legal or constitutional thought. I challenge you to find a single word in his lecture that you even disagree with, let alone ones that could inflict “real and legitimate pain.”

You sent out the message, loud and clear, that while Mr. Jacobson and his ideas are, at best, to be grudgingly tolerated, H2A and its ideas are to be encouraged, supported, and thanked. This is shameful coming from any faculty member, and egregious coming from the president of the College. Now more than ever, the students of Vassar need to hear the ideas expressed by Professor Jacobson. It should have been you who personally invited Professor Jacobson to speak. You should have personally endorsed his message, and you should have personally asked the Vassar community to attend.

To the eternal shame of Vassar, it appears that not a single member of the Vassar faculty or administration publicly supported Professor Jacobson or his free speech message. It also appears that many, like you, actively supported H2A.

In their silence and actions, the faculty and administration at Vassar have clearly learned a lesson from Nicholas and Erika Christakis at Yale University. This couple dared to speak truth to power, and it cost them their careers.

You owe Professor Jacobson a public apology, and you owe the Vassar community a statement thoroughly repudiating H2A and its ideas.

Paul S. Mansour ’87

You can read President Bradley’s response to the letter here.

Another Vassar alum wrote a Letter to the Editor of USA Today:

It saddened me to read William A. Jacobson’s column “My pro-free speech views made me the target of a smear campaign at Vassar College.” During his speech, he dared to talk about the inherent tension between free speech and safe spaces. But since the term “hate speech” was in the title of the talk (An Examination of Hate Speech and Free Speech) some overly sensitive students took that as a trigger warning. To them, the speech itself was not only alarming but also quite dangerous. If Jacobson’s words were uttered on campus, those words would themselves be a form of violence in their midst.

This is not the Vassar College I once knew.

When I was a student there, more than 35 years ago, The Vassar Spectator was founded on campus. I enthusiastically participated in helping to get this conservative literary journal up and running not because I was particularly aligned with the ideological views of the publication, but rather because I thought it essential to have a variety of opinions and perspectives well represented and expressed on campus. Many students, faculty and administrators expressed similar enthusiasm for the intellectual diversity that this publication helped foster.

It’s too bad that there has been a dramatic change over time in this ideal. Ironically, it’s at the most liberal of liberal arts schools where the fear of ideas not aligned with one’s own seems to have become an acute anxiety disorder.

This episode saddened me, but it did not surprise me. Nothing surprises me anymore about the goings on at my alma mater.

Paul E. Greenberg; Brookline, Mass.

Thanks to the letter writers for voicing opinions on this important issue of free speech on campuses. I have received messages from some students indicating that others on campus share this frustration with the way I was treated, and that my free speech message made a difference.

As to the apology suggested, I agree it’s owed, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

For those of you who missed it, here is my speech and the Q&A.



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The president’s reply insinuated that the facts as she knows them differ greatly from the facts put forth by Mr. Mansour. What is missing from her letter is her comparison of the facts as she sees them as opposed to what Mr. Mansour wrote in her letter.
What facts does she see as being in conflict with what Mr. Mansour stated? She doesn’t explain and keeps her audience guessing. My belief is she can’t defend her statement and refuses to debate what she sees as the differences. That is totally expected. College administrators run and hide at the first sign of being challenged on their actions, or inactions. Another indication of the decline of our universities.

regulus arcturus | December 4, 2017 at 10:01 pm

A tad verbose, but well stated.

Vassar is not open to ideas; it is a closed leftist echo chamber as documented over the years.

The federal indoctrination machine has amplified this problem.

Sadly, this is far from a Vassar-only problem: Professor Jacobson is embarked on a battle against Allan Bloom’s (which I was required to read at Vassar, and didn’t appreciate enough) The Closing of the American Mind.

The result is Charles Murray’s Coming Apart.

Vassar is not about education. It is about leftist indoctrination.

Realize that, alumni: enough with letters – you need to demand mass firings.

That letter from their president is about as close to FOAD as I think I’ve seen from somebody in the position of power over students. He’s entitled to his own opinions. He’s not entitled to create his own facts.

    TX-rifraph in reply to georgfelis. | December 5, 2017 at 6:03 am

    Bradley’s letter is pitiful – platitudes and gratuitous assertions. My daughters could write better than that back when they were in the 10th grade. If I assume Bradley can think, then she is demonstrating contempt for the Vassar students with such a mindless response.

DrainTheSwampNow | December 4, 2017 at 11:23 pm

Alumni must vote with their wallet.

Different issue for my school (University of Illinois), but after giving for 20+ years, they haven’t for 10+ years and won’t ever again get even $0.01 from me.

I wrote a protest note to the rabbi at Vassar’s Chabad House for having provided a “safe space” for those who were frightened of the Big Bad Professor.

G. de La Hoya | December 5, 2017 at 3:41 am

In the future, my money is on the student exposed to the mettle of a Professor Jacobson versus the liberal suckassidy of an Elizabeth Bradley.

Your boy Colin – “Don’t make the black kids angry”.

I expect that the Vassar administration will punish (overtly or covertly) anybody associated with the student newspaper. The left does not tolerate truth nor the open discussion of it. Some students at the paper and perhaps a faculty advisor get it. That is a good sign for Vassar. Will the spark be extinguished before it becomes a flame?

Perhaps the Professor started something at Vassar. That is leadership. I think the label is “Counterrevolutionary” so watch for the reeducation camps.

What would Mario Savio say?

A great letter, echoing the sentiments of millions of graduates of the liberal Academy who do not support its march towards a mission of Leftist indoctrination and its quashing of dissenting viewpoints.

When I encounter letters such as this, I think that there may yet be hope for this country.

The withholding of money is the only language they listen to, but this is a start

    katiejane in reply to gonzotx. | December 9, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    So true – most schools only speak money. After decades of donating to my university I stopped when they gleefully announced they had establish a SJW studies degree program. And this was a land grant university funded by the taxpayers – not some private liberal arts school.
    I have thrown away every gimmie they have sent me since then and if they make the mistake of having some poor naïve student call and ask why I no longer donate I hope to be civil.