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

Postdoc terminated after taking down hostage posters

Dozens of faculty have signed open letters criticizing the university’s decision to fire Darren King, a postdoctoral instructor at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.
Matt Petres
Remnants of hostage posters near the Stern School of Business. (Matt Petres for WSN)

NYU terminated a postdoctoral instructor at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences earlier this month, after he was seen taking down posters of hostages taken by Hamas, a Faculty & Staff for Justice in Palestine statement said and a copy of a termination letter obtained by WSN confirmed. 

The instructor, Darren King, appears to have been terminated for violating the university’s non-discrimination policies due to “harassment based on race, ethnicity, national origin, and/or creed/religion.” After a video of King removing the posters from a “construction barrier” outside Courant in October emerged online, the Office of Equal Opportunity began investigating his actions, the FSJP statement says. 

FSJP’s statement also said the OEO later found King had violated NYU’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment policies, and that the university terminated King and ended his health insurance “with no apparent mechanism for appeal.”

“It was obviously inadvisable for Darren King to rip down posters of hostages in the days following the Oct. 7 attacks, and many people found that objectionable,” CAS professor and FSJP member David Hogg said in an interview with WSN. “However, there is an enormous difference between objectionable speech and discrimination, and when somebody at your university who has no power participates in some kind of speech that you find objectionable, that is a reason to have a conversation, not a reason to terminate someone’s employment.”

Hogg said King, who is Black, had no history of disciplinary action taken against him. The press release also references two open letters to administrators criticizing King’s termination — one from over 60 faculty of color and another from more than 50 Jewish faculty. Both letters raised concerns over disciplinary action for pro-Palestinian speech being taken disproportionately against students and faculty of color. 

“We are most immediately distressed that the OEO relied on this instrumentalization of antisemitism to justify the firing of one of our postdoctoral colleagues, Dr. Darren King, for taking down pro-Israel hostage posters,” the Jewish faculty letter reads. “People in the NYU community may disagree about the meaning and efficacy of King’s act of protest, but we reject the OEO’s characterization of his actions as discriminatory or antisemitic. We request the immediate reversal of the overly harsh punishment applied in King’s case.”

The letter from faculty of color demanded that the university “reverse” disciplinary proceedings taken against King and refrain from “using doxxing material” in conduct cases. The letter also called for NYU to avoid suspensions of students and faculty “relating to the Gaza Solidarity Encampment” and to end police presence on campus, which many pro-Palestinian protesters have also been asking for.

Earlier this semester, NYU suspended Gallatin professor Amin Husain after a video of him criticizing media coverage of Hamas amid Israel’s war in Gaza surfaced online. In January, the university suspended Steinhardt professor Tomasz Skiba following complaints regarding his social media posts, in which he had refused to condemn Hamas and suggested that most of the hostages “were okay” and that “some of them actually liked their time.”

In December, NYU suspended a first-year student who was identified online for tearing down posters of hostages outside the Stern School of Business. The student is now suing NYU, claiming that the disciplinary action she faced did not align with the university’s conduct policies and that the sanctions against her were “excessive.”

Arang Keshavarzian, a CAS professor and FSJP member, said many faculty are concerned that there is “little transparency” and lack of “oversight” in disciplinary hearings conducted by the OEO.

“The way that disciplinary processes have unfolded in the past six months is concerning — they are opaque and seem arbitrary,” Keshavarzian told WSN. “The system does not have an appeal process and can be abused and weaponized to just target faculty and students for their beliefs and speech.”

Graham Piro, a program officer at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression — a First Amendment watchdog organization — told WSN that the act of tearing down posters does not fall under protected free expression and could be considered a form of censorship.

“When posters are removed as part of a university’s regulation of certain areas on campus in a viewpoint neutral manner, that is entirely permissible, but tearing down posters is not a good way to build a free speech culture on campus,” Piro said. “Firing is also a very severe penalty and universities need to be very careful that they are proportionate in their responses to policy violations.”

An NYU spokesperson did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Update, April 30: This article has been updated with additional information regarding King’s termination letter.

Contact Adrianna Nehme and Yezen Saadah at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Adrianna Nehme
Adrianna Nehme, News Editor
Adrianna Nehme is a sophomore still trying to decide what to major in. Originally from a small town in Indiana, she moved to Chicago, Illinois for high school — where she was also the news editor for the school paper! She loves experiencing music live at concerts, seeking restaurants to try in the city and reading fiction novels — her all-time favorite is "The Cider House Rules" by John Irving. Check out her latest adventures on Instagram @adrianna.nehme.
Yezen Saadah
Yezen Saadah, Editor-in-Chief
Yezen Saadah is a junior studying cinema studies, journalism and Middle Eastern studies. He's a lover of cinema, history, art and literature, and he enjoys writing about pretty much anything. If he isn't in the newsroom or at the movies, he's probably just trying to enjoy his day off. Contact him on Instagram @yezen.saadah or send tips to [email protected]
Matt Petres
Matt Petres, Photo Editor
Matt Petres is a first-year studying Economics. He is from Chicago, Illinois and likes to bike and kayak. You can contact him on Instagram @matt.petres

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