The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
As I've recounted in two previous posts, Connecticut College has been roiled by phony accusations of racism against pro-Israel Professor Andrew Pessin. The college reacted to the allegations in a kneejerk p.c. way.
As discussed in my previous posts, university administrators (also motivated by an incident in which racist graffiti was scrawled on a bathroom wall) canceled classes for a day to discuss campus racism, various university academic departments condemned Pessin's alleged hate speech, and the interim deans of equity and inclusion scheduled a series of politicized events that hardly seem "inclusive," in particular two events featuring radical pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel activists, belying the persistent claim that the Pessin controversy was "not about Israel/Palestine."
I suggested in my last post on Monday, "If Connecticut College wants to repair the damage to its reputation all this has caused and is causing, it can start by relieving professors Bhatia, Canton, and especially Grande of their responsibilities as interim deans of equity and inclusion."
College president Katherine Bergeron rose to the interim deans' defense almost immediately, sending an email sent to the campus community on Tuesday thanking them for their efforts and lavishing them with praise.
By contrast, when the Pessin controversy broke, Bergeron not only failed to other speak up in his defense but suggested that his Facebook post that spurred the controversy was "bigoted and hateful" (lumping it in with the racist graffiti), and incendiary, and seeming to categorize it as an example of of racist, dehumanizing, and odious speech..
In fairness to Bergeron, she admirably has defended Pessin's right to free speech throughout the entire episode. Assuming Bergeron was responding to misinformation presented by Pessin's critics, falsely asserting that he had advocated genocide against the Palestinian people, it was understandable, if regrettable, that she harshly condemned his Facebook post. But now an apology is in order.
Speaking of which, to his great credit, a Connecticut College alumnus who wrote one of the three published letters attacking Pessin that created the controversy has issued a heartfelt public apology, explaining that he wrongly acted on incomplete information provided to him "by current Connecticut College students."