[News] Palestine Legal and CCR Sue Fordham Over SJP Ban

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Apr 26 12:00:06 EDT 2017


http://palestinelegal.org/news/2017/4/26/palestine-legal-and-ccr-sue-fordham-over-sjp-ban 



  Palestine Legal and CCR Sue Fordham Over SJP Ban

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/April 26, 2017, New York, NY –/ Today, students at Fordham University 
filed a lawsuit against the school over its refusal to grant club status 
to Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Represented by the Center 
for Constitutional Rights (CCR), cooperating counsel Alan Levine, and 
Palestine Legal, the students argued that the denial is “viewpoint 
discrimination” in violation of Fordham’s policies regarding free 
expression.

“As a Palestinian on campus, I was denied the opportunity to advocate 
for freedom for my people,” said Ahmad Awad, a graduating Fordham 
student. “Instead of encouraging our human rights advocacy, the 
university sided with those trying to silence our voices.”

SJP applied for club status in 2015 and intended to organize educational 
events on Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus about Palestinian human 
rights. While the application was pending, administrators expressed 
concern that SJP’s presence would “stir up controversy,” consulted 
Jewish faculty and students on whether SJP should be approved, and 
repeatedly delayed a decision on the application. A year after the 
application was filed, the student government approved recognition of 
SJP as a student club. Fordham’s Dean of Students, Keith Eldredge, then 
took the unprecedented step of overruling that decision and denying the 
request because, he stated, approving SJP would lead to “polarization,” 
and that the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) “presents 
a barrier to open dialogue.”

Numerous civil rights and community groups condemned the decision, 
including Catholic clergy and professors 
<https://static1.squarespace.com/static/548748b1e4b083fc03ebf70e/t/58dadcd6197aeaaf64ed3de0/1490738391242/Catholic+Letter+to+Fordham+Final+3-28-17.pdf>, 
and over 100 Fordham professors 
<https://fordhamram.com/2017/02/22/faculty-sign-petition-in-support-of-sjp-student/>. 
Last week, faculty voted no confidence 
<https://fordhamram.com/2017/04/19/faculty-pass-vote-of-no-confidence-in-mcshane/> 
in the leadership of Fordham President Rev. Joseph M. McShane by a 
margin of 431 to 57.

“If Fordham’s guarantee of freedom of inquiry means anything, it’s that 
students who want to advocate for Palestinian rights must be able to 
start an SJP club and host events, invite guest speakers, distribute 
flyers, and post materials just like any other group,” said Center for 
Constitutional Rights Deputy Legal Director Maria LaHood 
<https://ccrjustice.org/home/who-we-are/staff/lahood-maria>. “Even if 
the expression of views seeking justice in Palestine or demanding 
respect for human rights through BDS is considered polarizing or 
offensive to some, it is protected speech; indeed, it is the ideas that 
challenge us and foster debate that need to be protected most.”

In response to student inquiries, Eldredge informed students there was 
no appeal of his decision. Shortly after, he charged one of the 
petitioners in the case filed today, Sapphira Lurie, with violating the 
school’s “demonstration policy” for protesting the SJP decision and 
insisted on holding a closed-door hearing on the disciplinary charge, 
without Lurie having access to counsel or other advisors, and with 
Eldredge as the sole hearing official and decision maker.

Advocates say Fordham’s treatment of SJP is part of a broader pattern of 
repression against Palestinian human rights activism, particularly on 
campuses, which includes administrative disciplinary actions, 
harassment, firings, baseless legal complaints, and false accusations of 
terrorism and antisemitism. Palestine Legal responded to 650 such 
incidents of suppression <http://palestinelegal.org/2016-report> 
targeting speech supportive of Palestinian rights from 2014 to 2016.

“Students go to Fordham to exchange ideas and advocate for the 
disenfranchised, as Jesuit values would presumably encourage,” said 
Palestine Legal staff attorney Radhika Sainath 
<http://palestinelegal.org/staff#radhika>. “The law is clear: Fordham 
can’t promise freedom of expression and then take it away when it comes 
to advocacy for Palestinian rights.”

Read the petition filed today here 
<http://palestinelegal.org/s/Final-Verified-Petition-42617-web.pdf>.

For more information, visit CCR’s 
<https://ccrjustice.org/home/what-we-do/our-cases/awad-et-al-v-fordham-university> 
and Palestine Legal’s 
<http://palestinelegal.org/case-studies/2017/3/9/fordham-bans-students-for-justice-in-palestine> 
case pages.

/Palestine Legal/ 
<http://palestinelegal.org/case-studies/2017/3/9/fordham-bans-students-for-justice-in-palestine>/is 
an independent organization dedicated to protecting the civil and 
constitutional rights of people in the US who speak out for Palestinian 
freedom. Our mission is to bolster the Palestine solidarity movement by 
challenging efforts to threaten, harass and legally bully activists into 
silence and inaction. Founded in 2012, Palestine Legal is the only legal 
organization in the United States exclusively dedicated to supporting 
the movement for Palestinian rights. Visit //www.palestinelegal.org/ 
<http://www.palestinelegal.org>/and follow @pal_legal 
<https://twitter.com/pal_legal>. /

/The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and 
protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and 
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys 
who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit 
legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law 
as a positive force for social change. Visit /www.ccrjustice.org 
<http://www.ccrjustice.org>/and follow /@theCCR 
<https://twitter.com/theCCR?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor>/./

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