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New York academics publish open letter in support of Students for Justice in Palestine

September 2, 2014 at 9:54 am

More than one hundred university professors in New York City have signed an open letter, which was published on Monday, to administrators throughout the City University of New York (CUNY) system regarding the “principles of freedom of speech and assembly, and how such freedoms apply to students involved in organising with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at several of the CUNY colleges”.

In the letter, the professors explain that: “We have viewed with great concern instances of unequal and unfair treatment of SJP by members of the CUNY administration over the past few years. These have been well documented by legal rights groups such as the Centre for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild, and Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, as well as by students involved in SJP at CUNY and their faculty advisers. These include arbitrary changes in policies regarding student groups, aimed specifically at curtailing SJP activities; the over-policing of SJP events and activities, including simple actions like handing out fliers, in a way that has caused intimidation to students; and making unfounded accusations that lead to ‘investigations’ into widely publicised events. All of these actions have a chilling effect on free exchange and open dialogue.”

The letter calls “upon members of the administration throughout the CUNY system to treat SJP as they would any other student organisation, respecting their right to organise events and activities within the existing rules and practices governing such organisations and refraining from setting up unfair barriers or subjecting SJP to standards different from those applied to other student groups. These students are acting within the traditions of intellectual inquiry and public responsibility that have guided CUNY since its inception.”

The CUNY professors urge the administrators at their university to “show courage in upholding the principles of freedom of speech and assembly”. They point out that while not all faculty members who have signed the letter always agree with the views expressed at SJP events, they support “unconditionally” the students’ “right to express these views without fear of reprisals or unfair treatment by this university.”

Amongst the many dozens of esteemed faculty in the CUNY system who signed the letter are: David Harvey, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and History; Talal Asad, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology; Linda Martín Alcoff, Director, Women’s Studies Certificate Program and Centre for the Study of Women and Society; Moustafa Bayoumi, Professor of English; Corey Robin, Professor of Political Science; Susan Buck-Morss, Distinguished Professor of Political Science; Stanley Aronowitz, Distinguished Professor of Sociology; Ervand Abrahamian, Distinguished Professor of History; and Sarah Schulman, Distinguished Professor of the Humanities.

To view the full letter and its list of signatories, please visit here.