Fordham University has issued a disciplinary charge against a student trying to start a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) group on campus, demanding a closed-door hearing with the dean who denied the group club status. The student, senior Sapphira Lurie, was charged with violating the school’s “Demonstration Policy” for organizing a January 23rd rally protesting Fordham’s decision to ban SJP from the school. Her hearing is scheduled for February 22nd.
Dean Keith Eldredge, who denied the SJP club status in December, filed the complaint, noticed the complaint, will alone conduct the hearing, and determine Sapphira’s guilt and punishment.
“I feel like I’m being retaliated against because I challenged his decision and protested it in a public way,” said Lurie, a literature major.
Dean Eldredge has denied Lurie’s request to bring counsel, a faculty advisor, or any other person into the hearing. Requests for a neutral decisionmaker were also denied.
“This entire disciplinary process is utterly lacking in due process protections,” said Palestine Legal attorney Radhika Sainath, who represents Lurie. “How can anyone get a fair hearing when the same aggrieved administrator is the complainant, prosecutor, judge, jury and sentencer — and insists that a student meet alone with him behind closed doors?”
Students are calling on Fordham to drop the charge, and to instate SJP as a student club.
The charges come after numerous other groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace, Friends of Sabeel North America, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), and the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) called on Fordham, and Dean Eldredge, to recognize SJP. In January, Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights notified Fordham that its censorship of SJP violated free speech and academic freedom guarantees.
Fordham’s contempt for the speech and associational rights of its students reinforces the dangerous anti-Muslim, anti-Palestinian and anti-speech rhetoric that the Trump administration is engaging in, and undermines the rights and safety of all students when strong safeguards are most needed.