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Hate Speech on UNM’s Campus: A Noted Anti-Semite Speaks

December 1, 2015

By Molly Morris

Last week it was brought to my attention that when I returned to campus after the holidays I'd be returning to anti-Semitism. Coming up after a holiday of togetherness and thankfulness, the Lannan Foundation of Santa Fe, in conjunction with UNM’s American Studies department, decided to bring to campus a known and outspoken anti-Semite to give a speech on the topic of Israel. This is something that hung over my head all break. As much as I tried to push it from my mind, it remained ever present in the controlled anger on my father's face and the disappointed sighs and comforting touches from my mother as they looked up the speaker online. 

Andrew Balis and Molly Morris of Lobos for Israel
on the campus of the University of New Mexico

As an active member of the tiny Jewish community and even smaller Zionist community on my campus, we knew that it would fall on the shoulders of a few to defend themselves against a much larger population full of hatred. My parents did not try to hide that they wanted me to walk away from it all, but they also knew that this would not happen because it would be on the shoulders of a handful of students to fight for the rights of the Jewish population on campus. As long as I've been a student at the University of New Mexico, and likely much longer beforehand, a student’s Jewish heritage had been little more than a neat quirk to pull out of your hat at a party. It is seen as being at the same level as being able to dislocate your shoulder or whistle through your nose instead of an important, guiding factor of select students’ lives. Just a neat meaningless factoid. 

For two years, I argued with the food hall, asking them to offer kosher options besides bagels or to at least take the bacon bits out of the carrots but got nowhere. And last year, I tried writing to them numerous times through their text suggestion line and via email asking for some representation in the food hall decorations besides the six Christmas trees and uncountable ornaments and foliage. The few times I got a reply, I was told I could bring my own decorations and put them up if I wished, but that UNM saw no reason to take a small step to welcoming diversity. As with everything else, ultimately, I got nowhere. 

The only clear sign of UNM not being a Christian school this time of year is the small, maybe 1.5’ x 1.5’ plastic boxes in the student union building filled with decorations for either Chanukah or Kwanzaa that easily get lost among the deafening red and green that swallows the student body throughout the rest of campus. I do not expect campus to bow to their easy-to-miss Jewish population, but I do expect them to take a stance and say that the safety of these students on campus does matter and that their comfort and beliefs are validated enough to thoughtfully acknowledge. 
As much money as I have put into the university, I deserve to feel safe and welcomed as an openly and active Jewish student. But through numerous actions, the University of New Mexico has said that this is ultimately unimportant. They have made their stance clear in allowing for a well-known hate-filled anti-Semite to come and speak on campus. This allowance is only topped by the idea that there is a group of students on campus who want to hear him speak and support what he says. All this, as well as the safety of Jewish students, are things that my university is willing to overlook. 

Such hate being spoken and supported on campus is sure to cause a backlash, but students cannot overlook the fact that they are trying to make this a positive learning experience by themselves. It has fallen upon them alone to try to make our university safe and welcoming despite the hateful racist speaker the University of New Mexico allows to be present and heard on campus -- even when they have a public easy to access record that would make a rabbi cry. 

One day, I will proudly show the degrees I earned and say I got them at the University of New Mexico. I am proud to be a student at my university, and I am proud to work in my university’s amazing library system. However, this does not change the fact that I am not proud of how my university touts its diverse student body, but so easily forgets one of its smallest minority groups, or that as a Jewish student, it falls upon my shoulders to fight anti-Semitism. I am not proud of what causes the exhausted and worried faces I see surrounding me at Hillel as we try to figure out how to properly respond to this in a positive way to make our campus as open and accepting as it claims to be. But what matters most at the end of the day is that I am proud to be a Jew. My Jewishness is what will be with me long after I have left the University of New Mexico for the last time. 

This is something the university has shown it does not understand. It will allow for a speaker to come on campus and go after the Jewish community under the guise of a ‘constructive’ discourse on Israel and the Palestinians. However, it would not allow a speaker to come on campus and speak horrible, threatening lies about the LGBT or Muslim or Christian communities. It would not allow hate speech against the Latino or African American communities. But, it will allow hate speech against me.  

On December 1st, Richard Falk spoke at the University of New Mexico. A professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, he served as a United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.  In that capacity, he was criticized by the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon for his positions on Israel, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy theories regarding the September 11 attacks.


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