A pattern of discrimination continues at Northeastern University with two students facing the possibility of expulsion and the university’s Students For Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter already suspended. As if banning Palestine-related activities from campus and denying SJP all use of campus resources weren’t chilling enough, the university is pursuing expulsion-level sanctions for two students—all for participation in a mock eviction action. SJP is troubled to report the only individuals to face our school’s opaque disciplinary process are two young women of color; none of the white or male participants have faced any charges.
Northeastern has attempted to justify this latest attempt to restrict the free speech rights of students by claiming it is a “result of a series of violations and demonstrated disregard for policies and direction provided to Students for Justice in Palestine over an extended period of time,” however it is clear that the university’s draconian decision is part of a thinly veiled policy of silencing student speech critical of Israel.
Last May, Northeastern put SJP on administrative probation after members staged a silent walk-out during an event with Israeli soldiers in order to protest ongoing, systematic Israeli human rights abuses in Palestine. The university’s decision was strongly condemned by free speech and civil liberties advocates, including theNational Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Massachusetts branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, who sent a letter to the administration expressing alarm about what they termed the “unfair and/or unequal application of University policies and procedures when it comes to SJP.” Unfortunately, SJP Northeastern is once again being singled out for unfair and unequal treatment by the administration.
Northeastern’s Students for Justice in Palestine is not the only SJP chapter which has been targeted because of its political views. Palestinian and other students as well as professors on campuses across the country who speak out against Israel’s brutal military occupation, colonization of Palestinian lands, and other grave violations of international law endure discrimination, disparate treatment from school administrations, and attempts to silence and marginalize them that often include attacks from local politicians and outside “pro-Israel” groups. The organization Palestine Solidarity Legal Support documented over 100 instances of campus suppression of pro-Palestine speech in 2013 alone. Some of the most egregious examples include Florida Atlantic University student activists being placed on probation and forced to undergo a “re-education” seminar designed by the pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League for staging a walkout of a lecture given by an Israeli military officer and students at the University of California at Irvine face criminal charges for interrupting a speech of Israeli ambassador Michael Oren.
Northeastern SJP will not be silenced or intimidated and will fight the spurious allegations that the Northeastern administration has made against us. We call on all Northeastern students and faculty, and all those who believe in free speech and the universal application of human rights, to stand up and show your support for our struggle. An injustice against one student or student group is an assault on all of our freedoms.