On Friday, November 13, the Brandeis Center issued a letter to CUNY Vice Chancellor Frank Sanchez, and CUNY Hunter College President Jennifer Raab, urging them to strongly condemn recent anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in the CUNY system, specifically, the “Million Student March” at Hunter College that took place on Thursday, November 12. The NYC Students for Justice in Palestine Facebook event for the rally used anti-Semitic terminology to link the financial concerns of the CUNY student body to CUNY’s so-called “Zionist administration.” At the rally itself, student protestors chanted things like, “Zionists out of CUNY! Zionists out of CUNY,” and “Intifada! Intifada! Long live the Intifada.” The Brandeis Center calls on CUNY to condemn such behavior. The text of the letter is below:
November 13, 2015
Dr. Frank D. Sanchez
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, CUNY
205 E. 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017
President Jennifer J. Raab
Hunter College, CUNY
695 Park Ave
NY, NY 10065
Dear Vice Chancellor Sanchez and President Raab:
We write on behalf of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB), a national public interest advocacy organization established to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all; and the LDB Law Student Chapter at CUNY Law School. As a national organization, we fight campus anti-Semitism through legal advocacy, and often work with university administrators nationwide to offer best practices on how to combat and prevent anti-Semitism on their campuses. We have been concerned about several recent incidents of troubling anti-Semitism, as well as anti-Semitism thinly-veiled as anti-Israelism, in the CUNY system. Just last week, we issued a letter to President Karen Gould about the need to speak out against troubling anti-Semitic activity and free speech issues at Brooklyn College. Today, we write out of concern over the “Million Student March” that took place on Thursday, November 12, at Hunter College.
As you are likely aware, the “Million Student March” is a nationwide campaign demanding tuition-free education and a host of other alleged inalienable rights. The “Million Student March” rally aimed at the CUNY system that took place at Hunter College on Thursday was endorsed on Facebook by NYC Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and five SJP chapters in CUNY schools – Hunter College, Brooklyn College, College of Staten Island, John Jay College, and CUNY School of Law – and differed from the national movement in that, in addition to calling for a tuition-free education and other things, the groups used anti-Semitic slurs to link the financial concerns of CUNY students to its “Zionist administration.” The Facebook event stated,
The Zionist administration invests in Israeli companies, companies that support the Israeli occupation, hosts birthright programs and study abroad programs in occupied Palestine, and reproduces settler-colonial ideology throughout CUNY through Zionist content of education. While CUNY aims to produce the next generation of professional Zionists, SJP aims to change the university to fight for all peoples liberation.
At the rally itself, students chanted things including, “Zionists out of CUNY! Zionists out of CUNY,” and “Intifada! Intifada! Long live the Intifada.”
While we respect the right of all members of the university community to express their opinions in accordance with the First Amendment, hateful and bigoted speech should be strongly condemned by university administrations. When speakers engage in hateful speech, administrators can use such situations as teachable moments and issue a strong public statement, reiterating the values of the campus community and showing the administration’s support of targeted or affected students. The best such responses tend to share certain characteristics, such as responding with specificity, prominence, balance, and courage; putting the event into context; following up and firmly applying sanctions; and providing outreach to the targeted group. This is discussed in LDB’s “Best Practice Guide for Combating Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism” (see attached).