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

Student sues NYU over ‘excessive’ suspension after taking down Israeli hostage posters

The student, who was suspended at the end of last semester, is arguing that the university wrongfully applied its conduct policies to her case.
On April 6, Hafiza Khalique filed a complaint against NYU to reverse her suspension.

A first-year student who was suspended last semester for taking down posters of Israeli hostages is now suing NYU, alleging the disciplinary action did not align with the university’s conduct policies and constituted “excessive sanctions.” The student, Hafiza Khalique, is calling for her suspension to be reversed, arguing NYU’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”

In a November email informing Khalique of her suspension, the Office of Student Conduct told her she had violated a part of the University Student Conduct Policy that prohibits vandalizing “university property or the property of others,” as well as NYU’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment policies. Khalique’s suspension began at the end of the fall 2023 semester, and will end at the start of next semester. She tried to appeal her suspension late last year, but her appeal was rejected according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the New York state Supreme Court on Saturday, argues that removing the posters should not be considered destruction of university property, and that the posters should instead be considered “abandoned” property of the person who placed them. It also alleges that the posters were not authorized or affiliated with the university, and “would have been taken down whether it was an act of protest or not.”

NYU suspended Khalique after photos and videos of her and two other individuals removing posters of Israeli hostages outside Tisch Hall were posted on the social media platform X in mid-October, gaining millions of views. The lawsuit referenced a video on the platform, saying it “ignited right-wing Twitter” and eventually led Khalique to be “unable to leave her dorm or attend class.” It also says Khalique lost her scholarship status, and alleges that NYU had told her it would remain unchanged.

The university disputed the reasoning behind Khalique’s lawsuit in a written statement to WSN, and said that federal law prohibits NYU from discussing students’ disciplinary records.

“Speaking generally, NYU has long-standing rules in place involving student conduct as well as non-discrimination and anti-harassment, and in the aftermath of Oct. 7, NYU has been especially clear about its expectations for student conduct and its intent to follow its rules in order to maintain a campus climate where hatred and intimidation had no place and where NYU’s academic mission would carry on without disruption,” university spokesperson John Beckman wrote in the statement.

Khalique’s lawyer, Jonathan Wallace, did not provide a statement but referred WSN to the complaint and forwarded inquiries to a spokesperson for The Parachute Project, a nonprofit he is a co-founder of. Khalique did not respond to a request for comment made through a press contact form she previously shared with WSN.

“There is no question that NYU’s punishment of Ms. Khalique is severe for pulling down a pro-Israel flier; she is a working-class first-generation college student attending NYU via scholarships,” a spokesperson for The Parachute Project said in a statement to WSN. “Ms. Khalique has experienced extreme harassment from actors outside of the university, alleging false claims of antisemitism when practicing her protected First Amendment rights.”

In a series of conduct guidelines announced on Nov. 1, NYU said that the affixing of any signs and posters must comply with requirements set by specific university buildings, and that the removal of any signs is a violation of school policy, regardless of whether it is “in the wrong place or beyond the scope of permissible content.” There are no explicit mentions of posters or signs in the University Student Conduct Policy or Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment policies.

The lawsuit also says that Khalique’s suspension was influenced by university stakeholders, which it alleges are “widely believed to be pro-Israel individuals external to the NYU community but placing NYU under great pressure,” including donors. These stakeholders were referenced in the OSC’s email to Khalique, which said that while the university had previously communicated “a different level of sanction” to her, it was taking a “strong stance” with regard to conduct incidents and had consulted with “relevant university stakeholders” before coming to a decision.

Shortly before the lawsuit was filed, Khalique had planned to meet with a dean to speak about concerns regarding the level of her punishment. However, before the meeting was about to take place, the dean allegedly informed Khalique that a specific stakeholder was opposed to her entering campus, which made obtaining permission for her to access on-campus buildings more difficult, the lawsuit said. The dean also allegedly told Khalique that the same stakeholder “is opposed to her attending graduation.”

The lawsuit also says that because she was “pressured to drop her classes and was barred from registering,” Khalique will no longer meet the academic progress requirements she needs to keep her funding from the Federal Pell Grant program. She could also lose a scholarship from the Horatio Alger Foundation due to her suspension and for failing to meet academic progress requirements.

Khalique was forced to isolate herself due to being identified online, and received “disturbing threats and harassment,” according to the lawsuit. She also received threats that she would be assaulted if she was seen in university dining halls, the lawsuit said.

“NYU’s actions are part and parcel of a national trend, targeting students and faculty across the U.S., especially Palestinian, Arab and Muslim students and faculty, for their dissent in solidarity with Palestine and in support of and protection of the Palestinian victims in Gaza,” The Parachute Project spokesperson wrote to WSN. “NYU should spend its time investigating actual antisemitism rather than harassing and punishing students and faculty practicing their constitutional rights to resist the mass murder of innocent civilians.” 

Update, April 8: This article has been updated with a statement from an NYU spokesperson.

Contact Maisie Zipfel at [email protected].

View comments (1)
About the Contributor
Maisie Zipfel
Maisie Zipfel, Deputy News Editor
Maisie Zipfel is a first-year double majoring in Journalism and Politics, and double minoring in Gender and Sexuality Studies and Spanish. She is a Yerba Mate enthusiast, a Taylor Swift fanatic and an anti-Greek Life turned sorority girl (Deeph or Die). When she’s not writing in the WSN basement you can find her isolated in Palladium for NYU’s Competitive Dance Team practice, obsessing over her Four-Year Plan or trying to weave in time to take a nap. You can reach her on instagram @maisiezipfel, on LinkedIn (her favorite social media platform) @MaeZipfel or preferably on Venmo @mkzipfel.

Comments (1)

Comments that are deemed spam or hate speech by the moderators will be deleted.
All Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • R

    Ron ZipfelApr 8, 2024 at 10:17 pm

    Kudos to Miss Zipfel for deftly presenting both sides of this highly controversial lawsuit.