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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MLK Scholars condemn NYU response to Israel-Hamas war, call for shut-down of Tel Aviv site

A group of students in the MLK Scholars program recently signed a letter to President Linda Mills and other administrators criticizing the university’s response to the Israel-Hamas war.
Qianshan Weng
(Graphic by Qianshan Weng)

Dozens of students in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholars honors program signed a Nov. 13 letter criticizing NYU’s response to the Israel-Hamas war and calling for the university to shut down its study abroad program in Tel Aviv. The letter, addressed to NYU president Linda Mills and university administration, also demanded that the university protect pro-Palestinian speech on campus. 

Adiba Chowdhury and Sade Collier — two seniors in the program — wrote the letter, and said it was signed by 29 members of the program. The letter criticized NYU for its handling of on-campus tensions since the beginning of the war last month, and called for the university to demand a permanent cease-fire. A university spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

“Through the administration’s reluctance to defend our shared principles of justice and equality in concrete words and actions, you have ensured our institution’s culpability in the oppression of Palestinians,” the letter reads. “We call upon you, President Mills, to prove our institution’s presumed support of the good and just society that Dr. King envisioned — and change the university’s stance with the urgency necessitated by these events.”

The students also accused NYU of “singling out” students who express support for Palestinian resistance, and called on the university to halt disciplinary processes for an NYU Law student and a physician at NYU Langone. Some students and faculty have reportedly faced employment discrimination and been identified online for promoting pro-Palestinian speech.

“It feels truly empowering to witness their call for people to pressure institutions, like NYU, to urge the Israeli government to respect Palestinian rights and comply with international law,” Leah Calderon, a sophomore in the program who signed the letter, said. “The university should actively engage in meaningful dialogue and implement tangible steps to address concerns related to such war crimes, demonstrating a commitment to peace, human rights and a campus culture that values the well-being of all its students.”

Chowdhury and Collier also demanded that NYU condemn Israel’s ongoing bombardment of the Gaza Strip in the letter. The conflict began after the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an attack on nearby Israeli towns in early October, killing around 1,200 Israeli civilians and taking over 200 hostage in Gaza. The Israeli military has since initiated an invasion of the region, killing over 13,000 Palestinians so far, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. More recently, Israel, Hamas and the United States agreed to a temporary pause to the fighting in exchange for the release of dozens of Israeli hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

In an interview with WSN, Chowdhury said she thinks NYU’s Tel Aviv program goes against the university’s Code of Ethical Conduct and Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment policies. Some students have claimed the program violates academic freedom due to an Israeli law that prohibits foreigners who have called for a boycott of the country from entering its borders. The university has reiterated its commitment to the site, saying it cannot support an “academic boycott” and that shutting it down would violate academic freedom.

“It’s the idea that academic freedom is an excuse, a way to get away with what the institution wants, rather than what true justice means,” Chowdhury said. “It’s beyond frustrating to be presented with such an explicit humanitarian crisis and have that be shoved aside for the sake of ‘Oh well, we believe in everything.’ Then, you believe in nothing.”

Correction, Nov. 29: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that half of students in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholars honors program signed the letter. The article has been corrected and WSN regrets the error.

Contact Mariapaula Gonzalez at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Qianshan Weng, Multimedia Editor
Qianshan Weng is a junior studying Media, Culture and Communication and Journalism. You may pronounce his name as "chi''en-shan", or, if it makes your life easier, just call him "Ben." He grew up in Shenzhen, China, and has spent the last five years or so saying that he wants to learn Cantonese. The answers to the questions "when will he finally start?" and "why is this taking him so long?" remain mysteries, even to himself. You can reach out to him at [email protected]
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