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Lecturer Discusses Campus Political Speech Restrictions At Illinois State

This story was written by Alex Kantecki, The Daily Vidette

According to John K. Wilson, a Ph.D. student in educational administration and foundations at the University of Illinois, political speech restriction is becoming more common and widespread in the United States.

His presentation, "Academic Freedom and the War on Terror: Censorship of Criticism about Israel and the Bush Administration," provided examples of such controlling forces.

"My chief concern is that people will begin accepting the restrictions and it will become routine," Wilson said. "Hopefully, the next administration will change some of the policies holding back free speech."

The majority of political speech restriction is occurring on college campuses. One college campus that has gained national news is the University of Illinois.

"The University of Illinois just rescinded some of its restrictions on political speech this Monday," Wilson said. "However, there are still restrictions on wearing pins to support candidates and on what professors can say about political candidates in the classroom."

"Students should strive to gain back all of their entire freedom, not just celebrate the parts they gained back."

One freedom students did gain back is the ability to have political bumper stickers on cars, but this is not nearly enough, Wilson said.

Illinois State University does not have any restrictions on freedom of political speech.

Senior mathematics major Christian Berens thinks political discussion should be supported on college campuses.

"Academic institutions should be one of the places where political discussion is encouraged," Berens said. "It should be an environment where political debate and academic discussion is fostered."

Many foreign scholars have been punished for promoting political discussion in their classroom.

"The message sent to foreign scholars is to be afraid," Wilson said. "They may feel scared to leave the country because they don't know if they will be granted access back to the United States upon arrival."

"Homeland Security and Border Patrol may try to find any excuse to prevent them from coming back in."

One example is Norman G. Finkelstein, a professor at DePaul University. He was denied tenure due to his attacks on Israeli policies, according to Wilson.

"There was actually a national campaign against Finkelstein," Wilson said. "Based on academic qualifications, Finkelstein should have easily been granted tenure."

"His denial was based on the incivility of his research and writings about the Middle East conflict."

Actions like denying tenure to professors based on political expression can have destructive consequences, Wilson said.

"It will only lead to more political speech restrictions, and possibly restrictions on things other than political speech," Wilson said.

Wilson's presentation was part of the International Seminar Series, offered every Wednesday at noon on the third floor of the Bone Student Center.

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