New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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Student Bar Association disbands following pro-Palestine message from president

Following a message supporting Palestinian resistance by the president of the law school’s Student Bar Association, all remaining members stepped down from their positions.
Kevin Wu
File photo: The entrance to Vanderbilt Hall, the main academic building of NYU’s School of Law. (Kevin Wu for WSN)

All members of the Student Bar Association at NYU Law have stepped down from their roles following a statement in support of Palestinian resistance against Israel made by the group’s president last week. The statement blamed Israel for the lives lost in its ongoing war with Hamas and expressed solidarity with Palestinians.

Seven SBA members resigned soon after the message, which was sent in an SBA newsletter by former president Ryna Workman on Oct. 10. The remaining students sent out a statement Tuesday to the NYU Law community saying they were also resigning due to “persisting risk to student safety.” 

The group wrote that it had “little faith” in the law school administration’s ability to oversee Workman’s removal hearings, which were scheduled to take place on Oct. 17 and Oct. 24. The students also said they resigned after their personal information was leaked online and they received threats to their safety. 

“Our decision to resign is solely informed by ongoing threats to student safety,” the statement read. “We are disappointed that the NYU Law administration’s failure to protect student safety has left us with no option to safely remain in our roles.”

Former members of the SBA said they have initiated a petition for NYU Law students to decide whether the school’s student body will elect new leadership for the group. If a fourth of the student body signs the petition, the SBA will run a schoolwide vote on who should lead it. In an interview with WSN, Workman addressed the mass resignation and criticized the silencing of pro-Palestinian speech. 

“You’re seeing these resignations because it’s a scary time to be speaking up for human rights right now, and I don’t think it should be,” Workman said in an interview with WSN. “People should not be punished for speaking out for Palestinian human rights, whether that be doxxing, harassing or actions taken by their educational institution. It’s unfortunate that right now people are feeling like they can’t speak out for something they believe in.”

Workman’s message stated that “Israel bears full responsibility” for the lives lost in the war between the Palestinian militant group Hamas and the Israeli military. After sending the message, Workman faced removal from their position as SBA president and also lost a job offer from an international law firm. On Oct. 10, the university and law school dean Troy McKenzie issued separate statements condemning Workman’s message and saying it didn’t reflect the views of NYU. 

Workman responded to the backlash in a Monday press release, saying their intent was to raise awareness about the Israeli military’s blockade on the Gaza Strip, which has killed over 3,000 Palestinians in what the United Nations is calling an “unprecedented catastrophe.” They said that although their message “came across as insensitive” to the university’s Israeli and Jewish student body, that was not their intention. 

“The harassment campaign against me has targeted all facets of my identity: the fact that I am Black, the fact that I am queer, the fact that I am nonbinary,” Workman wrote. “Regardless of how terrible my week has been, this attention on one student’s email to their fellow law students is entirely misplaced and a dangerous distraction. We must stay focused on what really matters, and that is doing all we can to prevent furthering the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.” 

In an Oct. 12 email to Workman obtained by WSN, McKenzie said they were “relieved from all duties and privileges” as president of the SBA. In the email, McKenzie also wrote that Workman would be restricted from participating in meetings and would not be able to send any more messages to the student body. 

“You are directed to cease all communications with the student body using the title of Student Bar Association President and should not identify yourself as a representative of the student community or NYU School of Law,” McKenzie wrote in the email. 

McKenzie declined to comment for this story.

Update, Oct. 20: This story has been updated with a response from NYU Law’s dean.

Contact Bruna Horvath at [email protected]

About the Contributors
Bruna Horvath, News Editor
Bruna Horvath is a sophomore studying journalism and English at CAS. When she’s not a Deputy News Editor, she’s a "Gone Girl" enthusiast, a Goodreads lover, and a Barnes & Noble frequenter. You can usually find her ordering an iced mocha, telling people her name is “Bruna” not “Bruno,” or on Instagram @brunaahorvath.
Kevin Wu, Digital Director
Kaiyu (Kevin) Wu is a senior double-majoring in Media, Culture, and Communication and Journalism. He directs everything digital at WSN. You can directly reach him digitally at [email protected].
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