After not attending the President’s Service Awards earlier this month at which Students for Justice in Palestine was honored, NYU President Andrew Hamilton wrote in an op-ed on Monday that he would not have given the group the award due to its “divisive” behavior.
The op-ed responded to an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month that claimed the university has been tolerant of anti-Semitism. Written by Susan Shapiro — an author who also teaches writing classes at NYU and is married to a Tisch School of the Arts professor — the article cites the presentation of the award to SJP as evidence that the university is tolerant of anti-Semitism. Shapiro, as well as Zionist groups on campus such as NYU Realize Israel, have called SJP a hate group and claimed it supports anti-Semitism.
In his op-ed, Hamilton said he would not have granted SJP an award.
“Had it been up to me, SJP would not have received the award,” Hamilton wrote. “[N]ot because of its politics or NYU’s opposition to its pro-boycott, divestment and sanctions positions, but because SJP’s behavior has been divisive.”
In their complaints about the university, both Realize Israel and Shapiro mentioned events that occurred at last year’s Israel Independence Day. At a celebratory rave, two student protestors were arrested: one for burning an Israeli flag and one for grabbing a flag from another student. The two parties also cited SJP’s support of a student government resolution proposed last semester as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The BDS movement asks institutions to end support for Israel due to the country’s human rights violations against Palestinians.
In the past, Hamilton has denounced both the BDS movement itself and the resolution. Hamilton has attended the President’s Service Awards in previous years and students claimed his absence this year was in response to criticism the university received for giving an award to SJP.
“This year Students for Justice in Palestine won a Presidential Service Awards, and now the PRESIDENT of NYU is not coming to the PRESIDENTIAL service awards,” CAS senior and member of SJP Rose Asaf said in a tweet. “They are also not calling out the names of the award recipients. Pathetic.”
Hamilton went on to imply that the award given to SJP has little significance in comparison to the university’s track record of supporting the Jewish community. Students have criticized university statements downplaying the significance of the awards, saying it is unfair to those who have worked hard to achieve them.
“But the point is that NYU has compiled a long, strong record of support for the Jewish community, a record that surely must count for more than a single student award,” Hamilton wrote.
The university declined a request for comment.
SJP did not respond to a request for comment by time of publication.
Email Victor Porcelli at [email protected]