Monday, January 31, 2011

Rutgers Alumni and New Jersey Taxpayers Alert

Hot Air

You folks know who you are. Your school is the one whose students booed, taunted, and shouted expletives at the Navy team during their football game in 2007. A nice sampling of the festivities:

Navy was booed and peppered with “You suck!” chants when they stepped on the field for both halves. Toward the end of the second half, Rutgers students in the new bleacher section began to serenade the adjacent section of Navy fans and uniformed Midshipmen.

”F— you, Navy. F—you, Navy. F— you, Navy.”

Now, I know this wasn’t your fault, alums. But if you’re giving to an alumni fund or paying taxes in New Jersey, consider the latest developments in the realm of “equal application of the rules” at Rutgers. The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, which is just what its name implies, sponsored the appearance at Rutgers on Saturday of international Jewish anti-Zionist Hajo Meyer. The pretext was Holocaust Remembrance Day, which IJAN was celebrating as “Never Again for ANYONE” Day, on the following theory: The memory of the Jewish Holocaust should not be kept isolated from other atrocities in history. To remember what happened to the six million Jews … serves no important purpose unless it arouses indignation, anger, action against all atrocities, anywhere in the world.

You can probably guess that the indignation against atrocities favored by IJAN involves painting Israel as a Zionist Third Reich, committing genocide against Palestinians. At any rate, this campus event was advertised as open to all students. Events of this kind are, by university rule, open to the public. So a group of pro-Zionist Jewish students and members of the community showed up to attend this one.

Coverage of what happened next can be found here, here, and here. The videos at the last link are worth the time; this 2-minute clip shows an event manager suddenly announcing – to a group of Jews with kippahs (headwear) – a fee of “five to twenty dollars” for what had been advertised as a non-fee, campus-wide speaking engagement. Evidently feeling that an arbitrary fee wasn’t enough of a deterrent, the event managers called in the campus police and asked them to bar students with kippahs from entry. As the student report at NewsReal indicates (second link), the police were under no misapprehension about what they were being asked to do – but they did, in fact, prevent kippah-wearing persons from entering the venue.

However each of us may feel about political opponents being admitted to events held by advocacy groups, this was unequal application of the campus rules. There is no question that Jews wearing kippahs were first presented with an arbitrary fee, and then excluded from attending the event – with the cooperation and enforcement of university authorities – because they were Jews wearing kippahs. There is no set of circumstances under which this can be anything other than alarming and repugnant.

Consider, moreover, a larger but relevant context. I wrote last spring about the legal case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, in which the Christian Legal Society (CLS) at Berkeley’s Hastings School of Law sued because Hastings would not allow it to affirm Biblical principles on marriage and sexuality. Unless CLS gave up requiring its members to affirm specific principles – principles to which LGBT activists would not agree – Hastings would deny the organization its recognition as a student group. The principle argued by the school was that, as a taxpayer-funded entity, it had an obligation to ensure that recognized student groups, which benefit from the use of campus facilities, did not exclude potential members on the basis of, among other attributes, their sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court decided in favor of the school (“Martinez”) on 28 June 2010. In effect, CLS had no right to require of members that they affirm its founding principles, if it wanted to be recognized as a student group at Hastings. The Berkeley policy was upheld: groups organized for any purpose must be open to membership – and even, explicitly, to leadership – by those who oppose their purposes.

The implications of this interesting tenet have only begun to unfold. In theory, if Rutgers adopted Berkeley’s policy (no other school has such a policy today), a group like IJAN would be subject to it. And in theory, if IJAN had a campus chapter, it would have to admit however many kippah-wearing Zionist Jews wanted to show up, join, participate in group activities, and run for office in the organization.

But that, of course, isn’t going to happen. Respect for rights, and application of the rules, are increasingly unequal on American university campuses: the rules are applied consistently to the advantage of some groups and consistently to the disadvantage of others. Does anyone doubt that the campus police would have taken exactly the opposite tack, if a Zionist group had asked that anti-Zionists be excluded from a pro-Zionist event?

This is an objectively dangerous situation. A people that becomes accustomed to accepting it is allowing its moral sense about its fellow men to be corrupted. No set of rules, no social-contract-on-autopilot is a failsafe against the evil consequences of such institutional bias – in fact, the mantle of authority is being exploited over and over on American campuses to silence one set of political beliefs. German social acceptance of the Nazi approach to Jews started with “small” things too.

Writing the majority opinion on CLS v. Martinez, Justice Ginsburg invoked a supremely ironic allusion to Jewish history. In dealing with the CLS argument that homosexuality is “conduct” rather than inherent “status” (like race or gender), she argued that on the matter of sexual orientation, the Supreme Court has declined to distinguish between status and conduct. Her example of the reasoning? From Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic, 1993: “A tax on wearing yarmulkes is a tax on Jews.”

Quite. Hit Rutgers in the wallet, alums. Jersey taxpayers, don’t let your state legislators off the hook. It’s never too early to come down hard on something like this.

J.E. Dyer blogs at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions” and as The Optimistic Conservative. She writes a weekly column for Patheos.

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