In a speech May 5 on the San Diego State University campus, conservative author and activist David Horowitz defended fliers posted by his organization, the David Horowitz Freedom Center, at SDSU.The posters listed the names of seven students, all of them members of Students for Justice in Palestine, who support the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement on the SDSU campus and demand the university boycott Israel and not invest in companies that do business there.
The only sign at the SDSU speech of a contrary view about Israel came from a non-student who mingled briefly among reporters waiting outside. Although mild by comparison with other controversial issues on other campuses, the weeklong contretemps about the fliers was an unusual moment on the sunny campus of 34,000 students known for its basketball and football teams and growing reputation for academics and research.
She quietly handed out pamphlets supporting the boycott and criticizing U. Hirshman’s attempt to find a middle ground did not satisfy either side.
And the media images of him sitting in a police car immobilized by a group of students may linger — fairly or unfairly — as a sign of weak leadership.
There were no protests outside Horowitz’s May 5 speech.
Two-dozen campus police were at the ready, but had nothing to do. The question-and-answer session after Horowitz’s speech did not involve any sense of confrontation or views different than his, according to people in attendance.
Members of the press were not allowed to attend the speech.
Horowitz, 77, is the founder of the David Horowitz Freedom Center based in Sherman Oaks and has long asserted in books and speeches that free speech on college campuses is imperiled by political correctness and a liberal tilt among professors.
In response, San Diego State President Elliot Hirshman declared some aspects of the fliers abhorrent, but stopped short of calling them hate speech or taking as strong a verbal condemnation as had administrators at UCLA, for example, where Horowitz’s group posted similar fliers naming 16 students.
SDSU students on April 27 sought to confront Hirshman.
As he left an unrelated gathering, students surrounded a campus police car in which he was a passenger.
After an hour-long standoff, Hirshman emerged to make a brief apology to anyone upset by his stance.