NYU grad student accused of antisemitism for writing on discarded mailbag

After a graduate student wrote on an Israeli mailbag that had already been thrown in the trash, NYU fired her from her on-campus job and charged her with counts of vandalism and antisemitism.


The postal bag that NYU graduate student Naye Idriss is charged with vandalizing. (Courtesy of Naye Idriss)

Yezen Saadah, Deputy News Editor

NYU graduate student Naye Idriss was working in the mailroom of Bobst Library last June when she came across a large, white mailbag with “Israel Post Co. Ltd.” written on the front. The bag had been discarded in a trash can.

After seeing it, Idriss, who studies at the university’s Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, wrote “fuck” above the word Israel and “free Palestine” across the top of the bag in red marker. She is now being investigated by the university for alleged vandalism and antisemitism. The graduate student also lost her job at the library.

“All I did was write on a trash bag in the trash can,” Idriss said. “It goes to show how desperate they are when they choose to go after a student just for expressing political speech on a trash bag. It’s absurd to me.”

Idriss — along with two coworkers who advocated for her during proceedings with the university — were fired by the end of the fall semester. When all three reapplied for the spring semester, the two coworkers were asked to return. Idriss was not.

“The process of rehiring was discriminatory because we applied at the same time,” Idriss said. “I was discriminated against in the actual process in the sense that they actually didn’t have any evidence that it was me.”

According to Dylan Saba, the graduate student’s lawyer, NYU accused Idriss of violating the university’s vandalism policy and its Non-Discrimination and Harassment Policy — on the basis of antisemitism — in November 2022. Idriss attended two hearings, which were run by the university and the human resources department that oversaw her campus job, in reference to the charge of vandalism. The investigation into the charges is still ongoing.

In September 2020, NYU reached an agreement with the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. It held that the university must include a revised statement prohibiting discrimination on the basis of shared ancestry or ethnicity in its non-discrimination policy. The agreement was a result of the university’s alleged failure to appropriately address antisemitic incidents on campus. NYU’s current policy states that such discriminatory conduct includes insulting, teasing, mocking, degrading or ridiculing another person or group.

“It’s ridiculous that it’s even being discussed as implicating a discrimination policy,” Saba said. “Nothing that she wrote or expressed has anything to do with Jews. She wrote a political message on a bag that’s labeled ‘Israel.’ That has nothing to do with anyone’s religion.”

Saba, a staff attorney at Palestine Legal, claimed that Zionist organizations off campus encourage the university to make false allegations that fail to protect Jewish students.

“Due to outside pressure from Zionist organizations following complaints over the past several years, [the university has] entered into an agreement with the Office of Civil Rights,” Saba said. “The fact that they’re even investigating it shows that what these organizations want is just to silence pro-Palestine political speech. They don’t do anything to protect Jewish students from actual instances of antisemitism.”

Idriss now claims that the university mishandled the investigation into her behavior, violating labor law. The university tried to initiate a student conduct proceeding before the graduate student union — GSOC-UAW Local 2110 — was able to intervene. Saba said that Idriss had the right to union representation in any disciplinary hearing, adding that the university initially excluded union representatives to be present, which would be a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

Saba said that only the investigation concerning the alleged vandalism of NYU property has been initiated. Idriss added that one of the hearings was with human resources and concerned the vandalism accusation, while the other was concerning one of the grievances her union filed in support of her.

University spokesperson John Beckman said NYU is committed to preventing discrimination and harassment against students, but did not provide further details concerning Idriss’s case or a timeline for its resolution. 

“Beyond acknowledging that there was an incident that involved the writing of profanity in the library, and that various appropriate NYU offices have looked into the matter and responded to it, I cannot elaborate because it is NYU’s practice not to comment on the specifics of individual employee or student matters,” Beckman told WSN. 

Contact Yezen Saadah at [email protected].