The Brandeis Center welcomes some good news for three of our clients. On Friday, Brooklyn College President Karen Gould publicly apologized for the school’s forcible ejection of four Jewish pro-Israel students from a 2013 anti-Israel event sponsored in part by the school. The Brandeis Center, which represents three of the students removed from the lecture, had called for a public apology from Brooklyn College, and was pleased when the apology was issued late Friday afternoon.
LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus lauded the apology in a press release issued this morning:
“This apology reflects the fact that the university violated the constitutional and civil rights of our clients at a public event. This was a shameful incident, and we are pleased that the university has accepted responsibility,” said LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus. “We appreciate the apology and look forward to working with the school to ensure that other Brooklyn College students will not have to endure what happened to our clients.”
Here’s a summary of the case, which many readers will recall from last year:
On February 7, 2013, the Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine chapter – with official sponsorship from the school – hosted an event promoting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, which is aimed at Israel. The event featured Judith Butler … and Omar Barghouti….
Shortly after the four Jewish students – including LDB clients Melanie Goldberg, Michael Ziegler, and Ari Ziegler — arrived at the event, they were forcibly removed by two public safety officers of Brooklyn College at the urging of an event organizer unaffiliated with the school.
Brooklyn College President Karen Gould directed the school’s apology, reprinted in full below, to the four students. In the wake of the BDS event, the students had been falsely accused of wrongdoing and subjected to intense scrutiny from school officials and the media, but were vindicated by a two-month investigation into the incident conducted in March and April, 2013 by the City University of New York, of which Brooklyn College is a part.
The CUNY investigation, which included interviews with more than 40 witnesses, found that the non-campus-affiliated event organizer was motivated by a “political viewpoint” in removing the students as he had heard Melanie Goldberg’s pro-Israel views at a prior campus event; that the administrators and public safety officers at the event wrongly deferred to the event organizer; and concluded that “there was no justification for the removal of the four students.”
In the Brooklyn College apology, Gould stated that a College spokesperson had released “an erroneous” statement to the press after the event saying that the students were being disruptive. Gould acknowledged that the university’s statement was false.
The Brandeis Center has emphasized that more work remains to be done:
“The Brandeis Center looks forward to working with Brooklyn College to evaluate the measures taken since the 2013 incident to prevent any reoccurrences of this deeply troubling ordeal.” Marcus said. “Until that assurance is reached and the university has shown a good-faith effort to adhere to higher standards, we will continue to press forward in our efforts.”
In addition, the Center has expressed gratitude for the members of its litigation team as well as a lawyer at the Zionist Organization of America:
Marcus also acknowledged that several other lawyers have been supporting these efforts. “I want to thank Susan Tuchman of the Zionist Organization of America for her excellent work, as well as the members of the outstanding litigation team that we have assembled to ensure that our clients’ rights are fully protected: Robert Garson of Garson, Ségal, Steinmetz, Fladgate LLP; Rachel Lerman, Esq., of Akin Gump; and Alan K. Palmer, Esq., of Washington, D.C.
The formal statement from President Gould appears in full below:
“Statement of President Gould regarding the February 7, 2013 BDS Forum
Last summer, I had the opportunity to meet with Melanie Goldberg, Michael Ziegler, and Ari Ziegler, who, along with Yvonne Juris, were students at Brooklyn College who were forced to leave the BDS event sponsored by the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) club and held in the Student Center on February 7, 2013. While I had expressed my regrets to the students in person and in individual letters to them, I wish to publicly apologize on behalf of Brooklyn College to Melanie, Michael, Ari and Yvonne over the treatment they received.
The students were removed from the event based upon allegations by Carlos Guzman, an event organizer not affiliated with Brooklyn College, that the students were being disruptive and passing out flyers. As I stated last spring in a campus-wide communication, based upon the findings of a two-month CUNY investigation of what occurred and interviews with more than 40 witnesses, Mr. Guzman’s allegations proved to be false. The CUNY investigation concluded that “there was no justification for the removal of the four students.” Melanie, Michael, Ari and Yvonne had every right to retain the papers they were holding and to remain at the event, as they had not done anything to give rise to a reasonable belief that a disturbance was about to erupt.
The CUNY report stated that a plausible inference could be drawn that Mr. Guzman was motivated by political viewpoint inasmuch as he was apparently aware of the views of Melanie Goldberg from a prior event sponsored by the same student club. The CUNY report went on to state that it could not draw that inference with sufficient confidence to make a definitive finding. I was not present at the event. However, it seems to me likely that Mr. Guzman sought the removal of these four students from the event because they held viewpoints contrary to those being promoted by the SJP.
The CUNY report also concluded that administrators and public safety officers on site deferred to Mr. Guzman, rather than determining independently if the students had disrupted the event. Deferring to Mr. Guzman’s assessment was clearly wrong, and I have conveyed this judgment to the administrators involved in the incident.
Regrettably, without independent verification of what actually occurred, the Brooklyn College spokesperson released an erroneous statement to the press after the BDS event, about the removal of the four students. The college spokesperson told some reporters that the four students were being disruptive, which turned out to be false.
In the aftermath of the BDS forum and the CUNY report, members of the college administration, the Policy Council, and student government leaders worked extensively to develop and institutionalize new policies and guidelines for the management of public events hosted by student clubs, in order to ensure that such a situation does not occur again. The new policies and guidelines for student-hosted events address event planning, registration, press access, and administrative oversight and responsibility. Beginning with the fall 2013 semester, these new policies and guidelines for student club events are fully operational and can be accessed on the following websites: