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

NYU restricts SJP event access, citing admin concerns of ‘contentious speakers’ on college campuses

The university closed public access to a Students for Justice in Palestine event last week, and a similar event was postponed by another student-led organization earlier this month.
(Photo courtesy of Students for Justice in Palestine)

NYU restricted access to an event hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine last Thursday due to what an administrator referred to as “events featuring contentious speakers” and “recent incidents of violence” on U.S. college campuses, according to a March 6 email obtained by WSN. The email was sent in response to a request from an SJP member to make the event open to the public, including guests unaffiliated with NYU. 

The event, which featured Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi and NYU professor Sinan Antoon, was a discussion of Khalidi’s book “The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine” and “the current crisis and violence in Gaza.” The Faculty for Justice in Palestine group posted on its Instagram story the day of the event, criticizing NYU for allegedly deeming the speakers “contentious.” 

“That was wrong of me and I regret it,” the administrator wrote to SJP in an email obtained by WSN. “It incorrectly implies that the university deems Rashid Khalidi some kind of a ‘contentious speaker,’ which isn’t the case or what I meant to imply.” 

The event took place just a few days after President Linda Mills and Interim Provost Georgina Dopico sent a message to faculty reiterating the university’s “support for all members” of the NYU community. 

“We are in a period when a lot of events on a lot of campuses have gotten out of hand and have involved violence, threats of violence or intimidation,” NYU spokesperson John Beckman wrote to WSN. “In a good number of those cases, participants from outside the campus community — people who are not subject to the expectations set by a college or university’s code of conduct — have exacerbated the situation.”

The March 1 email came after a Feb. 6 letter signed by over 300 faculty members criticizing the university for its response to the Israel-Hamas war, claiming it “failed even to mention Gaza” in communications since the beginning of the conflict nearly six months ago. In their message, which mentioned the faculty letter, Mills and Dopico wrote that they “share in the collective grief for the loss of innocent lives in Gaza” and that NYU “has not imposed special limits or restrictions on any group, including those who express pro-Palestinian sentiments.”

“If the university’s communications have made anyone at NYU feel as if their pain was somehow invisible or unimportant, that was never our intention,” the email from administrators read.

On March 1, the university’s Student Activities Board postponed a film screening hosted by the on-campus group Student Labor & Liberation Action Movement, after it posted a photo of “a Palestinian revolutionary holding a firearm” on Instagram to promote the event, according to SLAM member Hazel Walrod.

Walrod told WSN that a few days before the event, SLAM’s club adviser and SAB members sent the club an email requesting the removal of the photo due to what she called a violation of SAB policies. After a meeting with SAB, Walrod said the board considered the photo of the firearm an example of the “threatening and abusive behavior” section outlined in the University Student Conduct Policy.

Sonya Posmentier, an FJP member who signed the Feb. 6 letter, claimed NYU did not allow two events in the fall 2023 semester to take place on campus, including one organized by Law Students for Justice in Palestine. At the time, Campus Safety had expressed security concerns as the events organizers had not shared a planned location. 

“How is it decided when and for which events ‘safety’ is a concern?” Posmentier wrote to WSN. “Many of us on the faculty remain concerned that these rules, whether or not they are ‘long-established,’ are being applied unevenly and opaquely in a way that discriminates against Palestine-related content, and that silences intellectual and political conversation on campus.”

Contact Mariapaula Gonzalez at [email protected].

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