But AAUP President Cary Nelson (and my Illinois colleague, in the English department) disagrees with me, and I found his statement somewhat interesting:
Calling out a political slogan during a question period falls well within the speech rights of any member of a university community,” he said. “Expressive outbursts do not substitute for rational analysis, but they have long played a role in our national political life. More surprising, to be sure, is President Lefton’s invention of an absurd form of hospitality: you must not question the moral legitimacy or the right to exist of a guest’s home country. Awareness of history would suggest such challenges are routine elements of international life.
The first half of this is true, but also somewhat besides the point. Obviously, expressive outbursts can be a part of national discourse. So too are critiques of those outbursts. Academic freedom doesn't mean freedom from criticism; to the extent the university president thinks this professor acted like a jerk, he shouldn't be immunized from being told so.
The second half, by contrast, just strikes me as strange. It's a "routine element of international life" for persons to have the very existence of their home states be challenged as a moral affront? I'm genuinely curious what other examples Mr. Nelson has in mind. After all, one thing one often hears from folks who think anti-Zionism plays by its own rules is that one essentially never hears the call "death to China" or "death to France." It isn't just guests from those countries which are spared the indignity -- such rhetoric isn't part of our discursive vocabulary at all for other countries.
I'm a little baffled, then, at what Nelson is referring to that he thinks is such a routine part of being part of international life. Any ideas?