Contact: Nicole Rosen
60+ Orgs to Columbia, NYU, Syracuse & UC Irvine: Jewish and Pro-Israel Students’ Civil Rights Are Being Trampled
Identical Anti-Jewish Harassment and Suppression of Speech Strategy Deployed at all 4 Schools
Santa Cruz, CA, May 14 – Students at Columbia University, New York University, Syracuse University and University of California Irvine are deploying a repeated and deliberate strategy to create a hostile climate for Jewish and Zionist students and, in turn, suppress any and all pro-Israel expression on campus. Today, more than 60 education and civil rights organizations demanded that the heads of these schools address this harassment and violation of civil rights.
Columbia University: “Over one month ago, the CU chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) submitted an incident report to the University’s Student Governing Board (SGB). In their report, the SSI students provided considerable and compelling evidence that anti-Zionist student groups, particularly the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), have systematically harassed and silenced SSI members and other pro-Israel voices on campus, in apparent violation of university policy and New York state law,” wrote the groups about the extraordinarily hostile climate for Jewish and pro-Israel students at Columbia. Full letter to President Bollinger.
New York University: We “are deeply concerned about the statement endorsed by 53 NYU organizations, which includes a call for ‘Boycotting NYU’s pro-Israel clubs, Realize Israel and TorchPAC, by not co-sponsoring events with them’… Following the student groups’ statement, the leader of an anti-Zionist campus group justified the planned disruption of a Realize Israel and TorchPAC event, which involved theft and destruction of the pro-Israel groups’ property and the burning of that property, as well as taking away the pro-Israel groups’ microphone, by explaining, ‘Our point is to make being Zionist uncomfortable on the NYU campus.’ As is evidenced by the stated intent of the organizers, this behavior is not going to minimize by itself.” Full letter to President Hamilton.
Syracuse University: “As you are aware, last month more than 20 student protesters and outside agitators from anti-Zionist groups such as Code Pink carried out the planned disruption of a speaking event with Ambassador Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York, that was sponsored by several university departments and the local Hillel. The protestors shouted loudly for nearly 30 minutes just outside the event in order to drown out the speaker, and they held signs declaring Zionism to be ‘racism’ and ‘White Supremacy’ and promoting the boycott of Israel. Two activists who deceptively came into the event hall as audience members disrupted the talk twice with shouting and the unfurling of anti-Zionist banners. One faculty member who attended the event called the protest ‘an effort to shut down speech and commandeer the campus.’” Full letter to Chancellor Syverud.
UC Irvine: An Israel-related event “was disrupted by several anti-Israel protesters, including one with a bullhorn, who screamed anti-Zionist chants so loudly that the event had to be stopped for the duration of the chanting. According to a recording of the event, although the Dean of Students and at least three police officers were present during the disruption, the screaming was allowed to continue for over three minutes, until protesters were finally escorted from the room. As you know, this is the third year in a row that anti-Zionist protesters have attempted to aggressively disrupt and shut down a student-hosted Israel-related event on your campus and suppress other students’ free speech rights.” Full letter to Chancellor Gillman.
Studies demonstrate that on campuses where anti-Zionist activity is found, Jewish and pro-Israel students are three times more likely to be targeted by acts of aggression. These behaviors consist of direct threats to the safety and well-being of Jewish students or violations of their civil rights, including physical assault, harassment, destruction of property and suppression of speech. At schools with active anti-Zionist student groups, these acts of aggression are seven to eight times more likely to occur.
The groups believe that implementing a campus-wide intolerance policy and guaranteeing equal protection for all students is the most effective approach to protecting free speech rights and preventing all harassment, including harassment directed at Jewish and pro-Israel students. They urged President Hamilton (NYU) and Chancellor Syverud (SU) to implement policies that both emphasize the school’s commitment to tolerance and respect, and educate students about the value of welcoming a wide range of opinions, views and identities; commit to address all exclusionary behavior in an equitable manner; and ensure students have access to an education and a campus free from discrimination. Specifically, the groups recommend:
- Review, update and enforce campus policies and procedures to guarantee that all members of the campus community, irrespective of their opinions, beliefs or identity, are equitably and adequately protected from intolerant behavior that infringes on freedom of expression and denies equal rights.
- Ensure that prompt and appropriate disciplinary measures are taken when any individual or group engages in behavior that suppresses the freedom of expression or civil rights of others.
- Develop protocols for vetting the establishment and yearly renewal of university-approved student groups, to determine whether a specific campus group has engaged in the unlawful suppression of others’ freedom of speech or civil rights. Any whose members have repeatedly engaged in such behavior should be appropriately disciplined as per school procedures should the group fail to modify conduct that intentionally harms others on campus.
- Develop educational and training programs to:
- Help members of the campus community recognize and avoid intolerant behavior that suppresses others’ freedom of expression or denies them equal rights, and be aware of all campus policies and procedures regarding such behavior; and
- Teach and encourage the expression of a wide range of views in a productive and respectful manner.
- Issue a campus-wide statement assuring all students will be equally protected from peer-on-peer harassment that violates their rights to freedom of expression and full participation in campus life.
Columbia and Irvine have already adopted strong free speech commitments that emphasize the value of The First Amendment and the consequences for suppressing those rights. However, the groups call on Bollinger (CU) and Gillman (UCI) to make a public statement pledging that all students will be equally protected from peer-on-peer harassment that impedes free speech. The groups point out that equity is critical to ensuring students feel safe to freely express themselves and fully participate in campus life. And they emphasized that for the pledge to be effective, it should include a description of all university policies and state and federal laws that prohibit harassment and discrimination, along with a firm commitment to their equitable enforcement for all students, regardless of identity, opinion or legally protected status.
The groups urged Cal Poly to implement a similar campus-wide intolerance proposal this month after numerous Cal Poly student organizations demanded an increase in funding for all cultural clubs except for those that support Israel.
AMCHA monitors more than 400 college campuses across the U.S. for anti-Semitic activity. Campus anti-Semitism increased 40% and genocidal expression doubled in 2016, according to AMCHA’s most recent annual study. The organization recorded 652 known anti-Semitic incidents in 2017, and 299 so far in 2018. Its daily anti-Semitism tracker, organized by state and university, can be viewed here.
AMCHA Initiative is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism at colleges and universities in the United States.