At Universities, Free Speech Challenged

By By U Wire

By U Wire

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.?Universities, once free to engage in public debate, are finding this tradition tested in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

Across the nation, college faculty and staff members who expressed opinions on the terrorist attacks and U.S. involvement in Afghanistan faced censorship issues that led to suspension and investigation. Two universities asked two professors to leave as a security measure.

The University of California in Los Angeles suspended library assistant Jonnie Hargis without pay for five days after he criticized U.S. support for Israel in an email. Hargis sent the email on the school’s computers in response to a co-worker’s mass email in praise of the United States.

The day the university penalized Hargis, the staff also stated that library policy forbade using its email to send unsolicited political or patriotic messages. However, Hargis said he was the only one punished.

In another similar incident, the University of South Florida placed professor Sami Al-Arian on indefinite paid leave for his safety. University officials acted after receiving a death threat and angry calls following Al-Arian’s appearance on a television news program in which he was asked about his ties to two suspected terrorists.

Al-Arian said he only knew the men as academics and their later links to terrorism shocked him.