Following weeks of speculation, Temple University’s Board of Trustees announced that it would not punish Professor Marc Lamont Hill for his comments at the United Nations that were widely viewed as anti-Semitic.
The “statement condemning the remarks of Professor Marc Lamont Hill,” released on Dec. 11, notes that Hill “included a statement that many regard as promoting violence, the phrase ‘from the river to the sea,’ which has been used by anti-Israel terror groups and widely perceived as language that threatens the existence of the State of Israel. Professor Hill’s remarks have been broadly criticized as, among other things, ‘virulent anti-Semitism’ and ‘hate speech,’ and have ignited a public furor.”
Hill, speaking at the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on Nov. 28, also said that he believed that pro-Palestinian activists could not “fetishize” nonviolence, which has also been criticized as endorsing violence against Jewish people living in the state of Israel.
Hill did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“We recognize,” the statements reads, “that Professor Hill’s comments are his own, that his speech as a private individual is entitled to the same Constitutional protection of any other citizen, and that he has through subsequent statements expressly rejected anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence.
“The members of the Board of Trustees of Temple University … hereby state their disappointment, displeasure, and disagreement with Professor Hill’s comments,” it continues. “Notwithstanding this controversy, as a public university, Temple continues to support a learning and work environment that is open to a wide diversity of thought, opinion and dialogue by people of all backgrounds.”
Responses to the statement and the university’s decision not to censure Hill have varied.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit group dedicated to advocating for civil liberties in academia, commended the university for declining to punish the professor. FIRE, based in Philadelphia, released a statement that, while supportive of the decision, criticized Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick O’Connor for his suggestion that Hill’s speech was not protected by the First Amendment.
“In the future, universities facing similar controversies should reach the same outcome — but should ensure that they do not threaten faculty rights in the process, as Temple did in Hill’s case,” the statement read.
The Philadelphia chapter of IfNotNow, a Jewish organization opposed to Israel’s presence in the West Bank, also commended the decision, though based on political principles rather than the constitutional ones of FIRE.
“We are glad that Temple University has affirmed Dr. Hill’s right to speak out,” the statement reads. “However, in issuing a statement condemning his remarks, the Board of Trustees conflates advocacy for Palestinian rights with anti-Semitism, a position we continue to reject.”
Those who had called for Hill’s firing were left disappointed by the announcement. Trustee Leonard Barrack, who had pushed for punishment of Hill, was quoted by The Philadelphia Inquirer as saying that he “pushed for a much stronger statement.”
Steve Feldman, executive director of the Philadelphia chapter of the Zionist Organization of America, said he didn’t consider the statement to be a condemnation.
“‘We condemn’ is different than ‘we are disappointed,’ ‘we are displeased,’ ‘we disagree,’” he said.
“We are disappointed by this statement, which falls far short of the appropriate tone and content that the university and the trustees should have used given Hill’s calls for violence,” Feldman said. He said that it remains ZOA’s position that Hill should be fired.
Hill was interviewed on The Breakfast Club, an influential syndicated radio show, on Dec. 13. It was Hill’s first media appearance since the controversy erupted in November, as Hill had declined all other interview requests.
On the show, Hill repeated that he did not intend to advocate for violence against Jews, but rather intended to call for the creation of a single democratic state in between “the river and the sea.” He also said that he was pleased that he would remain at Temple.
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