At Michigan State University recently, I was to speak about attacks on free expression and the First Amendment on various campuses -- from speech codes prohibiting certain offensive words to students' turning certain professors into pariahs because of their "incorrect" views on racism, sexism and homophobia.

In the audience were some 40 members of As One -- African-American students who regard Louis Farrakhan as "our Hero, our Black uncompromising, unvanquished champion."

I noted at the beginning that there certainly is racism on some campuses, which triggers the urge to suppress, rather than explore, certain kinds of speech. That racism comes, in part, I went on, from many white students' ignorance of black history. For instance, starting with the horrors of the holocaust of the Middle Passage from Africa to slavery -- for those who survived -- in America.

There were shouts of approval from the members of As One and there were more as I started to talk of Malcolm X, whom I had known over the years. There were no such shouts, however, when I quoted from one of Malcolm X's last speeches: "We don't judge a man because of the color of his skin. We don't judge you because you're white; we don't judge you because you're black. We judge you because of what you do. . . . So we're not against people because they're white. We're against people who practice racism."

Then came the subject of Minister Farrakhan. I had no reservations, I said, about having him on any campus (he had been at Michigan State the previous February). Students ought to judge firsthand not only Farrakhan but also David Dukes and other figures of acute controversy. And critical students ought to tape the talks so that the speaker or his supporters can't later deny that he said what he actually did say.

Since Farrakhan's visit, there had been considerable tension between As One and the Hillel Jewish Student Center at Michigan State. The Hillel Center had become so frustrated at what it says is the refusal of the university to acknowledge Farrakhan's antisemitism that it has filed an action within the university to force the administration to do just that. Earlier, I had told several members of Hillel that compelled speech isn't worth much.

But is Farrakhan antisemitic? That evening, I read some passages from his speeches -- Judaism is a "gutter religion," for instance, and his fervent belief that Jews control much of what afflicts African Americans. During Farrakhan's February appearance at Michigan State -- according to Hillel -- he had claimed that Jews are responsible for portraying blacks stereotypically in the media and within the school curriculum, which Jews control.

Classic antisemites, I told the audience, not only hate Jews but also believe that Jews create baleful conspiracies. I cited Father Charles Coughlin, who years ago managed to charge that Jews simultaneously were vastly influential international bankers and also powerful leaders of international communism.

As I made clear my conviction that Farrakhan is obsessed with Jews, shouts (now angry) and roars rose from As One. With the volume increasing, I noticed that As One had conductors. The members were sitting in two different parts of the auditorium, and a leader in each seemed to be orchestrating their responses.

I had said earlier in my talk that "politically correct" college students -- of whatever backgrounds -- had traded their individuality for group-think. And here, as if on cue, was a demonstration. I suddenly remembered television shots of Ariel Sharon's followers. The members of As One were not as distinctive as they thought.

At one point, As One, moving as one, started to walk out. But somehow they didn't go all the way. Apparently -- despite the desire to cut a dramatic figure -- they were interested in the dialogue.

They continued, from time to time, to try to shout me down. But as a heretic in a number of areas, I'm accustomed to hostile audiences and find it useful to ask them questions. They have to stop roaring long enough to figure out an answer.

One member of As One accusatorily predicted my future. Pointing his finger at me from the center of the auditorium, he said, "You will pay the price!" I asked him what the price would be. "When the day comes, the forces of righteousness will eat you up."

Other students besides members of As One spoke, some in support of Farrakhan. Another passionately denounced racism -- while members of As One nodded approvingly -- and then she said, "I am Jewish. I am a good person. I hear antisemitism all around me and I hate it. I am a good person."

The next morning, the college paper, the State News, reported that as a result of that tumultuous evening, "both Jewish and African-American students had requested {from the administration} an open forum to discuss Farrakhan."

While not quite an enchanted evening, the confrontation may not have been wasted.