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Richland Student Media

Richland Student Media

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Richland Chronicle 5/07/24
Richland Chronicle 5/07/24

Abbott limits antisemitic speech at Texas colleges

Executive order targets anti-Jewish speech and acts on campuses statewide
Abbott+during+recent+press+conference+on+the+Texas+border.
(Photo/gov.texas.gov)
Abbott during recent press conference on the Texas border.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has taken decisive action in the wake of escalating tensions surrounding the Israel-Hamas conflict, and issued an executive order aimed at controlling what he describes as a “sharp rise in antisemitic speech and acts on university campuses.” The move comes amidst clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine student groups that created concerns about free speech and safety on college campuses across the state.

Abbott’s executive order mandates that Texas universities revise their free speech policies to explicitly define antisemitism and establish punishments for its expression. The order specifically targets organizations such as the Palestine Solidarity Committee and Students for Justice in Palestine, alleging violations of free speech policies and calling for disciplinary action against them.

“I’m neutral about the situation. I don’t know if this will be beneficial, but it will lessen the risk of conflicts between students, which is a good thing,” Lena Kidet, a student at Richland campus, said.

“Texas supports free speech, especially on university campuses, but that freedom comes with responsibilities for both students and the institutions themselves,” Abbott stated in the executive order issued on March 27.

The governor’s order has drawn both support and criticism. Advocacy groups like the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression have raised concerns that the order could infringe upon students’ First Amendment rights, particularly their ability to criticize Israel’s policies without fear of reprisal.

However, Abbott remains committed to his support of Israel, and emphasized the need to protect Jewish students on college campuses. He cited instances of antisemitic graffiti and chants advocating for the destruction of Israel as evidence of the need for action.

“Some radical organizations on our campuses engaged in acts that have no place in Texas,” Abbott said in a press release. “Now, we must work to ensure that our college campuses are safe spaces for members of the Jewish community.”

The executive order requires each public university in Texas to report revisions made to their free speech policies within 90 days. Failure to comply could result in unspecified consequences for the institutions.

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