ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

March 17, 2014

2014.03.17: Defend Free Speech at Northeastern and Columbia

Filed under: Uncategorized — nyclaw01 @ 10:41 am

From: Letwin, Michael <>
Date: Mon, Mar 17, 2014 at 10:41 AM
Subject: Defend Free Speech at Northeastern and Columbia
To: 1199 Members <>, ALAA MEMBERS <>

Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine

The banner in question.
The banner was removed after complaints from Zionists on campus.

SJPs across the country are being targeted

On March 7, members of Northeastern University’s Students for Justice in Palestine were informed their chapter had been suspended for at least a year after organizing a mock eviction action. Read more about the current situation over at Northeastern.

On March 11, in a move to silence Palestinian activism on campus, Barnard College removed SJP’s banner in recognition of Israeli Apartheid Week (shown left). Read CSJP’s statement on the matter.

For further information about both situations, read the article on Electronic Intifada



Sign the petition to have Northeastern SJP reinstated as a student group.

Please send an email to Northeastern University’s administration about the situation. Below is a form letter as well the emails of relevant administrators. 

Northeastern University, University President
Northeastern Center for Student Involvement
Ralph Martin, Northeastern University General Counsel

I am writing to you as concerned [student/faculty member/alumni/community member] at Northeastern University [or wherever you are from]. It has come to my attention that the Center for Student Involvement (CSI) has issued a suspension of Northeastern University Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and banned its leaders permanently from participation, based on many accusations the organization vigorously denies and has had no opportunity to refute. Additionally, student leaders were interrogated and intimidated by the Northeastern police department while the CSI was investigating the organization. This level of action is unprecedented, particularly considering the minor, administrative nature of the violations with which SJP are accused. I am concerned that this action was taken as a measure to repress student speech that the University finds overly political. This is a serious violation of the basic principles of free speech and academic freedom on campus, which Northeastern purports to honor.

This suspension is also not an isolated incident. It has been demonstrated that SJP has faced a pattern of discrimination and harassment by the Northeastern administration, including being placed on probation last year for their silent walk-out of an event featuring a panel of Israeli soldiers. SJP has been forced to hire police officers for their events “for their own safety”, yet reports to the administration of threats and intimidation faced by SJP activists have gone completely unrecognized. This lays plain the political nature of the current suspension of SJP as an attempt to finally eliminate pro-Palestine speech from campus. This repression cannot be tolerated as it spells disaster for any hope of open discussion on campus and indicates that the University administration will silence any viewpoint with which they do not agree or find publicly palatable.
Therefore, I am asking that the Northeastern administration take the following measures:

1) Reinstate Students for Justice in Palestine as a student organization with all of the appropriate privileges.

2) Reinstate the student leaders of SJP to their elected positions.

3) Ensure that SJP is no longer held to a more stringent standard than other organizations and receives the appropriate support.

4) Take appropriate measures to ensure that all student organizations are able to engage the University community in open discussion, without having their views politically censored.

5) Immediately cease the use of the Northeastern police department to investigate student organizations for exercising their speech rights.

[Your name]

Please address your emails to
Joseph Aoun
University President
cc: (President’s Assistant)

Philomena Mantella
Senior VP of Student Affairs

Bob Jose
Assoc. Dean of Cultural and Residential Life

Ralph Martin
University General Counsel

Laura Wankel
VP of Student Affairs

Jason Campbell-Foster
Director of Campus Activities

Center for Student Involvement

Vincent Lembo
Deputy General Counsel 

ColumbiaPlease express your feelings on the situation to the Barnard administration. Below is a sample letter and the emails of relevant administrators.

Dear Dean (Hinkson, Wong)/President Spar:

It has recently come to our attention that a banner advertising an event by a registered student group on campus, Students for Justice in Palestine, was removed without explanation and without reaching out to said student group.

Given that the space in front of Barnard is reserved for student expression and for student groups to advertise events, I am concerned over the choice to remove SJP’s banner and censor their message. As a ________(member of the Barnard community, as a student of this college, as a member of the greater Columbia University community, student group on campus, ETC), I am concerned about the administration and Barnard College’s respect for freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and the diversity of opinion at this institution.

I am requesting an explanation from the administration for this act, an act to silence those whose political struggle has been marginalized and censored. I hope that you will discuss this with members of Columbia SJP and publicly with the Columbia-Barnard Community. I hope to hear from you soon. Please know that news of this is already circulating widely.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter, (name, signature, student group, affiliation, etc).

Deborah Spar,
President of Barnard College

Alina Wong Associate
Dean for Student Life Barnard College

Avis Hinkson
Dean of the College

Contact Barnard Student Life
by phone at: 212-854-2096
301-303 Diana Center New York, NY 10027

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