In a public meeting on Tuesday, Temple University’s Board of Trustees issued a statement admonishing professor Marc Lamont Hill for controversial comments he made at the U.N. last month about Israel and Palestine. But while they expressed their “disappointment, displeasure, and disagreement with” Hill’s remarks, they also affirmed his right to free speech.
“We recognize that Professor Hill’s comments are his own, that his speech as a private individual is entitled to the same constitutional protection of any other citizen, and that he has through subsequent statements expressly rejected anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence,” the trustees said in a prepared statement that was shared at the end of the meeting, according to Philly.com.
Hill made waves last month for comments supporting Palestine’s statehood in a speech given at the United Nations for the International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian People—the most incendiary of which was a statement he made saying he supported “a free Palestine from the river to the sea.”
Hill, who had worked as a CNN contributor prior to the Nov. 28 speech, was quickly fired from the cable news network after his use of the phrase “from the river to the sea,” which critics said was explicitly anti-Semitic and echoed the slogans of groups who want to destroy Israel altogether. The trustees’ statement also singled out the phrase, noting that it is “widely perceived as language that threatens the existence of the State of Israel.”
As the outrage snowballed last month, Hill quickly clarified and apologized for his comments.
“I support Palestinian freedom. I support Palestinian self-determination. I am deeply critical of Israeli policy and practice,” he said on Twitter. “I do not support anti-Semitism, killing Jewish people, or any of the other things attributed to my speech. I have spent my life fighting these things.”
Hill—a tenured professor at Temple—has kept a low-profile since the speech, and as Philly.com notes, it would likely have been difficult for the university to fire him. The site reports that Hill did not attend the Trustees meeting. “Reached later by phone, he said he was aware of the trustees’ action but unable to immediately comment on it,” wrote reporter TyLisa Johnson.