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In Defense of Our Students

Image-1By Florencia Salinas

Published: May 3rd, 2017

The David Horowitz Freedom Center recently published a press release naming the Administration of Brooklyn College to their list of academic institutions “most friendly to terrorists and hostile to the First Amendment.” In addition, the press release contains many unsubstantiated allegations about the Brooklyn College chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and claims that SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a Jewish activist organization, support anti-Semitic initiatives. The Center also claims credit for placing posters on the campus that repeat these allegations.

As the student government president of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, I would like to respond to these calumnies. It is shocking that an organization that routinely decries alleged libels propagated by anti-Israel or anti-Zionist organizations would then itself spread libelous claims about an upstanding academic institution. I cannot but feel that these libels must be rebutted quickly and forcefully to prevent the spread of misleading information about Brooklyn College and its administration and student body.

It would appear that the Center is utterly unaware of the hypocrisy inhering in accusing an academic institution of violating the constitutional provisions outlining freedom of speech while at the same time pressuring the institution to deny that very right to a student organization. The Center’s attempts to use free speech as a cudgel with which to silence its political opponents harms the very principle it claims to defend; indeed, this tactic is an example of the antithesis of that principle. In the future, I hope that the Center will truly commit to respecting freedom of speech for all, including those with whom they bear disagreements.

I am reluctant to discuss the Center’s allegations concerning the nature of SJP’s activities and intentions, as these fall outside my direct purview. Suffice to say that explicit claims that an organization is “anti-Jewish,” “a puppet of… terrorists,” and “a campus front for terrorists,” and an implicit claim that it backs “the extermination of [Israel’s] Jews,” require a great deal of proper evidence if they are to be taken seriously. The press release offers nearly none; although an article previously published by the Center purports to substantiate similar allegations, it in fact consists of many misstatements of fact, deceptively contextualized quotes, and relies on vague and indirect connections to support many of its claims.

The posters referred to in the press release identified five students by name and implied that they are desirous of “the elimination of the Jewish people.” As the staffers at the Center are undoubtedly aware, this is a reckless move that leaves the named students vulnerable to harassment and bullying. The CLAS Student Goverment believes that every student should be safe from harm, whether they be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, secular, of any religious conviction or political creed. Therefore, on behalf of the CLAS Student Government, the student body, and everyone concerned with protecting other people from harm, I must condemn this action as morally indefensible and unconscionable.

The Center’s statements about the administration of Brooklyn College are inaccurate at best and calumnious at worst. Its invocation of the First Amendment while simultaneously condemning the College for its tolerance of the right to free speech of student organizations is as sanctimonious as it is hypocritical. I fully support freedom of expression for student organizations and expect that the Center will in time come around to this view.

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