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'Proud to Be Educators’: College Professors Pen Letter That Appears to Glorify Self-Immolation

"Capture public attention and spark reactions in an effort to create public debate and social change."

Photo: Shutterstock/aceshot1

A letter signed by 39 faculty members at Ohio University expressing support for a pro-Palestinian student’s dramatic “blood bucket” display also seemed to applaud the act of self-immolation, describing it as part of a “long and honorable tradition” in the United States.

Photo: Shutterstock/aceshot1 Photo credit: Shutterstock/aceshot1

The faculty members published an open letter Wednesday, including in the student newspaper The Post, in which they defended Megan Marzec, the student senate president who last week amended the viral ice bucket challenge to criticize Israel by performing a Gaza “blood bucket challenge.”

The professors wrote in part:

Dramatic nonviolent actions — draft-card burnings, lunch-counter sit-ins, and even self-immolations — capture public attention and spark reactions in an effort to create public debate and social change. There is a long and honorable tradition of such protests in the United States and in Ohio public education. Marzec’s action is no different. It is consistent with what makes us most proud to be educators.

William Jacobson, a vocal supporter of Israel and a Cornell University law professor who runs the conservative blog Legal Insurrection, told TheBlaze, “Marzec has the right to express her views, but other students, faculty and administrators have the equal right to criticize those views and to hold Marzec responsible.”

“Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from criticism. The faculty letter misses that distinction,” Jacobson told TheBlaze in an email. “Even more disturbing is that the faculty members describe the suicidal act of self-immolation as ‘non-violent’ and ‘honorable.’  One would have hoped that faculty members, while also entitled to speak their minds, would have done so more responsibly on an issue of student safety."

According to a 2011 study by the American College Health Association, college students are at particularly high risk for suicide, with about 6 percent admitting to having seriously considered taking their own lives, and about 1 percent reporting attempting to do so in the previous year.

The 39 professors who signed the letter said they support Marzec’s “right to hold the views she expressed as well as the manner in which she expressed them in her ‘Gaza blood-bucket video.’”

“Without advocating a particular position on the Israel-Palestine issue — we hold diverse opinions on this question — we nevertheless staunchly affirm Marzec’s right to express her views. We also affirm that her method of expression is a legitimate form of protest and strategy to call on others to take up the issue for debate,” the letter said. “Marzec’s challenge does not undermine ‘civility,’ but rather raises awareness of a topic of great current and historical importance to the United States, the Middle East, and the world as a whole."

Those who signed the letter are almost exclusively teachers of humanities subjects including classics, sociology, anthropology, African-American studies, history, English and education.

Ohio University did not respond to a request for comment from TheBlaze about the faculty letter.

On Wednesday night, four pro-Israel students were arrested at a student senate meeting during which the Gaza blood bucket display was hotly debated. The campus newspaper reported that the pro-Israel students were accused of “disturbing” the meeting, though video showed that when she was arrested, one of the students was reading quotes that the Legal Insurrection blog had compiled of university opposition to the academic boycott of Israel.

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