The BDS panel hosted by Brooklyn College last week and co-sponsored by its political science department continues to spark controversy, almost a week after the event. Brooklyn College President Karen Gould is now calling for a formal inquiry into an incident involving four Hillel-affiliated students who were escorted out of the Brooklyn College Student Center by campus police during the event.
Last week the Hillel students told Tablet they were simply holding anti-BDS information sheets on their laps, but college officials alleged that they were talking throughout the panel and distributing anti-BDS pamphlets to other students.
“There are many different opinions about what happened and why,” Jeremy Thompson, Director of Communications at Brooklyn College told Tablet.
“The president has asked that there be a formal inquiry to get a better sense of what happened and to get more information from people who were there,” he added.
Meanwhile, Melanie Goldberg, one of the students who had been ousted, held her ground. “We are not taking the slander to our names lightly, nor do we feel the college had any right to evict us,” she said, adding that the school administration had yet to contact any of the students who were removed and they were not aware of the investigation. Another student aired his frustrations about being ejected from the event in a New York Daily News op-ed.
The investigation, it seems, may have also been initiated in part as a response to a statement released online earlier this week, in which Hillel Director Nadya Drukker called the BDS event “decidedly non-academic” and “very confrontation-oriented.”
“We are united in the belief that an investigation must ensue immediately regarding the difficulty of students easily identified as Jewish to enter the BDS event and others, as witnessed by the Dean of Student Life, to be asked and then forced by security guards to leave,” she wrote.
As we reported last week, a few pro-Israel students also claimed that they had been turned away at the door, even though each said they had received an email confirmation of a reserved spot. Brooklyn College responded to that as well.
“It’s my understanding that there were errors concerning students who RSVPed but didn’t have seats, but anyone who was turned away was then escorted in. If there’s an instance where that wasn’t the case we’d like to be told,” said Thompson.
For now though, the already controversial event has led some free speech advocates to suggest that violations of civil rights may have occurred last week. According to Kenneth Marcus, President and General Counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, the Brooklyn College controversy may be indicative of a larger trend at public universities.
¨This is reminiscent of the UC-Davis case in November when pro-Israel students were forced out of an event, and so it seems like it´s somewhat of a pattern,¨ said Marcus, referring to a student protest on November 19 of last year.
We’ll see what the investigation by Brooklyn College turns up.
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Todd F. Braunstein, Esq. Todd F. Braunstein is a counsel in the Investigations & Criminal Litigation practice group at the law firm WilmerHale, LLP. As a former federal prosecutor, he has years of experience in all phases of the investigative process, on both the government and the defense side.