Freedom - and Responsibility - of Speech

Article excerpt

The U.S. Supreme Court has sent the Leonard Jeffries case on a path that should lead to his firing as a department head at City College of New York. His hateful diatribe against Jews deserves protection under the Constitution, as he has claimed, but that protection should not extend to his being allowed to remain in a position of authority at the college - in essence, a representative of the school to the public. The federal appeals court ordered to reconsider the case should decide as much.

Mr. Jeffries is the outspoken chairman of the black studies department at City College whose opinions prompted what the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has termed "a firestorm of controversy." His assertions that Jews financed the slave trade and conspired to belittle blacks in motion pictures made him a focal point in the increasingly antagonistic relationship between blacks and Jews. It also made him a thorn in the side of the administration at City College, which ousted him from his post as department chair, though he remained a tenured professor and lost no pay or benefits.

When he sued the college, a federal judge ordered him reinstated to his chairmanship and awarded him $360,000 in punitive damages - and also characterized his views as "hateful, poisonous and reprehensible. …