Email March 8, 2010 from Margie Paris (Law) and Bob Bussel (Labor and Education Research Center) re resolution (US09/10-14) concerning Pacifica Forum

On March 8, 2010, Margie Paris and Bob Bussel wrote:

Dear Senator:

During Wednesday's Senate meeting, we will present for your consideration a resolution concerning the Pacifica Forum. The resolution does not suggest that the University ban the Pacifica Forum from campus or deny it the freedom to express its views. Instead, the resolution manifests the Senate's condemnation of the some of the Forum's messages, in two respects:

First, the Forum sometimes expresses hateful speech that denigrates members of our community on the basis of race, ethnicity, religious faith, and sexual orientation. For example, as reported in the Register Guard, a member of the Community Alliance of Lane County's Anti-Hate Task Force who attended 70 Pacifica meetings over 3 1/2 years "found 'a concerted focus on demonizing Jews' in the presentations." Michael Williams stated that "one-third to one- half of the weekly programs consistently targeted Jewish people with 'negative, disparaging remarks and criticisms.' He said participants used stereotypes such as describing Jewish people as "grasping, acquisitive and bent on world domination." See Pacifica Forum Opposition Critiques Group's Treatment of Jews, The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), February 3, 2007. The Forum's hateful speech has also denigrated Muslims and gays.

The resolution "denounces" that hateful speech. Second, while the Forum purports to engage in serious intellectual inquiry about important issues, its practice is to sponsor discussion by speakers who eschew standards of critical thinking and rigorous analysis that are central to the ideals and values of the University. For example, the Pacifica Forum has sponsored a series of talks by Valdas Anelauskas, who describes himself as a "white separatist and racialist," and it has brought, according to an article in the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, "a veritable Who's Who of leading Holocaust deniers to speak at the UO, including Mark Weber and David Irving." See Pacifica Forum Lands On List of Hate Groups, The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), March 13, 2009.

The resolution "deplores" these pseudo-debates. Among the bedrock principles of the First Amendment are these: an informed public is essential to a democracy, and inaccurate (and even hateful) speech is best dealt with by more speech. We hope the Senate affirms these principles by issuing a resolution that deplores the hurtful and intellectually dishonest character of much of the Pacifica Forum's speech. At the same time, the resolution will express the respect for all individuals that is a fundamental value on this campus and reassert the University's commitment to the highest standards of intellectual inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge.

Bob Bussel (LERC) and Margie Paris (law)

last updated 10 March 2010 by ms