Anonymous flier denounces hate speech at S.F. State

In recent weeks since a militant speaker spewed anti-Semitic epithets on the last day of classes at San Francisco State University, campus groups have been quiet.

Some students have graduated, while others have gone away for the summer. If amends are to be made for the May 21 speech by the Nation of Islam's Khalid Muhammad, there will be few on campus until the fall semester to hear about it.

That was why Abbie Wolf, associate regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, was caught off guard to find fliers of apology for Muhammad's hate speech posted all over her Haight neighborhood on Monday.

"We the people of San Francisco want you to know that we were horrified by the speech that was given," read the flier, which was addressed to Jewish and gay S.F. State students.

"We felt sick and scared when we were told about it," the flier continued. "If San Francisco State decides to shame our city again, by giving a public platform to a fool and a madman…you can bet that we'll be there…Khalid and his bunch will get a new message: that the people of San Francisco care about you."

No group has claimed responsibility for the flier, but Bay Area members of the ADL would like to thank the author.

Wolf felt tears welling in her eyes when she first read the flier. "I got very moved. It read like poetry to me," she said.

"I think the thing that makes the Jewish community feel so despondent is that people were cheering [Muhammad's] speech. This is the first communication from the community that not only are they aware of what happened but were sickened by what happened."

Wolf says she fears for the safety of Jewish students at S.F. State, and claims that many have "gone underground."

Students from campus Hillel were slated to meet Wednesday at press time with Jewish community leaders to discuss strategies for coping with the specter of anti-Semitism on campus.

S.F. State President Robert Corrigan was out of town at press time, but university spokeswoman Ligeia Polidora said the administrators are still grappling with the incident.

The dean of human relations and director of affirmative action have launched an investigation into the pricing of tickets to the Muhammad speech. The Pan Afrikan Student Union, sponsor of the event, had charged $7 for students, $10 for general admission and media and $15 for "racists."

Wolf and others in the ADL have been brewing their own antidotes to bigoted speakers at S.F. State. ADL's regional director, Barbara Bergen, plans to meet with university officials in the fall to figure out how to discourage known hate-speakers from coming to the school.

Bergen wants to review how student fees are spent and to "raise the level of communication on campus so that groups won't be inclined to invite bigots."

The director plans to take her mission nationwide in an effort to bar Muhammad and other anti-Semitic speakers from U.S. campuses. She has approached California lawmakers about statutory action and plans to ask Gov. Pete Wilson to join the fight.

Bergen, a former civil rights attorney, acknowledges that college campuses are a marketplace of ideas. But she questions whether proponents of all ideas should have equal privileges.

"The Supreme Court has long provided proper time, place and manner guidelines for free speech. But any initiative can be used as a sword or a shield," she said. "And that is worth looking at."

Lori Eppstein

Lori Eppstein is a former staff writer.