Graduation at CUNY Law earned a little more coverage than usual this year. Graduate speaker Fatima Mohammed covered a lot of the usual ground, reminiscing about major events over the last three years and encouraging classmates to go out and fight for their clients. But, since this is CUNY, the big events included a student government resolution to boycott Israel over treatment of Palestinians and those clients are victims of NYPD violence so the speech got a lot of folks angry.
From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
While the ceremony was held almost three weeks ago, the furor sparked by her speech has grown in recent days as a video circulated on social media. A New York Post headline described her speech as “hate-filled” and Fox News’s headline deemed it “vile.” U.S. Rep. Daniel Goldman, a Democrat who represents New York’s 10th district, condemned the law student’s “hateful and misleading rhetoric” in a tweet.
This all can be fine. It’s how free speech works — people say things and if you disagree you can protest them. If the individual Trustees wanted to boo her in the middle of her speech that’s generally within their rights. Up until the point where government figures start directly or indirectly seeking to stifle speech. That’s where things get constitutionally ugly.
Now, a GOP legislator is introducing a bill to strip the school of funding over the incident. It’s really weird that Rep. Lawler announced this on Fox News, because the last time I checked they were very, very concerned about free speech on campus.
And that’s the whole trick, isn’t it? After months of breathless meltdowns over campus free speech with federal judge boycotts, student doxxing, new snitching campaigns, and some downright embarrassing “heckler’s veto” discourse, the usual suspects in the campus free speech game have fallen curiously silent.
Whatever one thinks of this specific speech is irrelevant. In fact, the silence is even more damning if you do think the CUNY address crosses into hate speech. Because the Washington Free Beacon, Fox News, Newsmax ecosphere could not shut up about how precious it is to protect recognized hate groups from even the mildest rebuke for over a year, but none of those outlets seem all that concerned by the prospect of the federal government defunding a public institution over the content of a student speech.
I guess only certain brands of hate speech need to be nurtured from criticism.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.