Since being suspended by university administration, interrogated by campus police and threatened with suspension for passing out mock eviction notices across campus, Northeastern University’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter has received hundreds of messages of support from around the country. Northeastern’s administration has yet to issue a formal public explanation for the suspension and has not responded to my request for comment. However, it appears that the growing outcry is having an impact on the administrators.
In an emailed response to a professor who wrote to Northeastern to complain about SJP’s suspension, Michael Armini, the Senior Vice President of External Affairs for Northeastern University, dismissed all allegations of free speech suppression. He went on to claim that no SJP member has been threatened with expulsion.
On Democracy Now yesterday, Northeastern law student and SJP supporter Max Geller explained that students routinely leaflet and promote political causes on campus without any repercussions. According to Geller, there is no precedent for SJP’s suspension — it is the product on an aggressive campaign to crush Palestine solidarity activism on campus by outside pro-Israel groups.
Armini’s reply is below:
I am responding to your recent communication about Students for Justice in Palestine at Northeastern University.
The suspension of SJP was handed down only after a careful and thorough review of the facts. Despite repeated efforts by university officials to work with the leadership of SJP, the organization has repeatedly shown a disregard for university policies over an extended period of time. Contrary to assertions from some parties, SJP leaders have not been banned permanently from participation, and the organization has had many opportunities to discuss its conduct with university officials. Further, reports that expulsion procedures have been initiated against students affiliated with SJP are false.
The issue here is not one of free speech or the exchange of disparate ideas. Instead, it is about holding every member of our community to the same standards, and addressing SJP’S non-compliance with longstanding policies to which all student organizations at Northeastern are required to adhere.
I hope this reply is helpful and sheds light on the relevant facts.
Senior Vice President
Armini has yet to produce any documentary evidence to support his claims. His insistence that no students have been threatened with expulsion run directly counter to claims by two SJP members. They say they have received letters from Northeastern’s administration summoning them for disciplinary proceedings, and that they have been charged with infractions which could merit their expulsion.
In an email to me, Geller responded to Armini:
Why after your “review of the facts” did you not see if fit to give SJP a hearing or an opportunity to explain those facts before suspending them?
Let’s talk about these facts. If, Sjp remains suspended until all current leaders graduate, are they not permanently banned? This is semantic distinction and doesn’t make any difference. The problem is that we are being sanctioned for exercising our speech rights.
The policy violations that we’ve been convicted of without trial occur everyday. Flyers from all sorts of groups are routinely placed around the school without mention from administrators let alone a full on police investigation including home visits and interrogations. The selective enforcement of these policies is the problem. The university obfuscates because it doesn’t have the facts on its side. What, if not viewpoint discrimination, could explain my these policies are only enforced when it comes to SJP? What else could explain the police being deployed to investigate a policy violation they’ve never investigated before.
This letter says our suspension is about holding all members to the same standard, then why does the university keep treating us so different?