By STEPHAN KOZUB
News Co-Editor

Undeterred by harsh winds and cold temperatures, members of the Fordham community protested the university’s decision to veto the formation of a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) club on Jan. 23.

The protest drew nearly 100 people and took place outside the main entrance of the Fordham Lincoln Center campus by Columbus Ave. and 60th Street.

As a part of the protest, the group marched to Columbus Circle and back. During the protest and the brief march, they shouted chants, such as “Free, free Palestine,” “Stand up fight back,” and a common one at anti-Trump protests, “the people united will never be defeated.”

Last semester, the United Student Government (USG) approved SJP to operate on campus, but were vetoed by Dean of Students Keith Eldredge on Dec. 22. The students first submitted their paperwork to become a club in November 2015.

“What Fordham University has basically done here is say that they don’t care about the decision of the Student Government and they don’t care about the rights of students to organize,” said Sapphira Lurie, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’17, who helped to organize the protest.

“So we’re here today to show the Fordham University administration and Fordham students that we’re not going to back down and that we’re going to build a movement on this campus for justice in Palestine,” she said.

As a part of the protest, the organizers demanded that the university institute SJP as a full club immediately with full club rights, commit to free speech on campus, issue a written statement apologizing to all of the students involved in forming SJP and issue a statement committing to the protection of all students regardless of national origin. These demands are similar to those made by Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights in their letter to the Fordham administration in support of Fordham SJP.

Ahmad Awad, FCLC ’16, also helped to organize the protest. When the members of SJP initially applied to become a club in 2015, he was the intended president.

“We decided that we’re not going to cave in, we’re not going to give up, and we’re going to continue to fight for what we believe is right,” Awad said regarding the protest. “I’m hoping that SJP will be allowed to be established here at Fordham so that, although I was unfortunately not allowed to be a part of it as a student, I will definitely be supportive of a Fordham SJP as an alum. And I want the classes to come to be able to experience something that I was not able to.”

Awad also addressed the protesters during the event, calling the university’s decision to veto the formation of SJP “absolutely disturbing and shocking.”

“When we first began this process, it was simple,” he said. “We were looking to advocate for Palestinian rights, for the human rights of Palestinians and to bring change and to try to rally behind the situation and to end the conflict in Palestine. But we’re refusing to give in, we’re refusing to give up and I really do believe that Fordham is going to allow us to have full club status soon, especially when they see the numbers that we’re turning out.”

Rachel Silang, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’15, also came to the protest and addressed the participants at one point. During her time as a student, she founded the Students for Sex and Gender Equity and Safety (SAGES) Coalition and helped to found Fordham Students United. She is now with The Party for Socialism and Liberation.

“For Fordham University to have an entire student body say ‘yes,’ the Student Government says ‘yes, this is okay, we accept this, we want to have conversations, we want to have dialogue,’ and then for the administration to unilaterally without student input at all veto that, it’s honestly a disgrace,” Silang said.

She also remarked that it was “a really impressive demonstration for Fordham” due to the turnout and the four day turnaround period between when the protest was initially announced and when it was held. When she was a Fordham student, she said it would take “months just to get at least 50 people out to any sort of demonstration.”

Among the other organizations whose representatives addressed the protesters were The Palestine Solidarity Network and New York City Students for Justice in Palestine (NYC SJP), which started an online letter of solidarity for supporters of Fordham SJP to sign.

Student protesters such as Nora, FCLC ’19, who wished to have her last name omitted out of fear of being labelled as anti-semitic for her support of Palestine, said “I think we need a voice on campus to defend the rights of Palestinians. I don’t understand why it’s a problem for the Fordham administration to allow us to defend basic human rights.”

Despite not having official club status, the SJP intends to keep planning and will hold a general meeting this Thursday at 1 p.m. in the Global Outreach (GO!) Office, according to Lurie. “I’m hoping for a positive outcome. We’re fighting because we want to win.”

UPDATE: Jan. 25 9:46 a.m.

Fordham SJP will no longer be meeting this Thursday at 1 p.m. in the Global Outreach (GO!) Office.

1 COMMENT

  1. I am posting this in light of the Pro-Palestinian Rally that took place outside of Fordham University today.
    Dear Progressives, why are you chanting “Free Palestine”. What are you trying to free it from? Israel (a country roughly the size of New Jersey), has an Arab population in 2013 of 1,658,000, representing 20.7% of the country’s population. It is the only Country in the Middle East that protects the rights and safety of the LGBT men and women. The only country in the Middle East that has Universal Healthcare. A country that allows abortion. A country that has democracy in which everyone is represented. All the things that you “seem” to stand for. Yet people are so brainwashed and refuse to see Israel what it truly is. All you talk about is how you want to improve the human condition, yet you hold yourself to a double stand. YOU’RE A PHONY. You are shallow individuals who will look for any excuse to be part of any movement.
    How can you support A Palestinian State whose sole purpose is to eradicate Israel? Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat once said “We plan to eliminate the state of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion. We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem”. On March 27, 2002 , 29 Israeli civilians including senior citizens peacefully celebrating Passover were killed. After Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield they discovered that Arafat had instructed Hamas to launch this “military operation” Terrorist act.
    Congratulations “progressives” these are the type of people you support.
    So can someone please enlighten me where the logic is? Why are so many people quick to support a group that embodies the opposite of what so many of you “progressives” are fighting for? Why are you trying to support people that bomb innocent Israeli civilians, ram buses into groups of young soldiers killing four (a few weeks ago) . People that stabbed to death a 13 year old Jewish Girl this summer in the West Bank. People that went out and murdered four Jews in a Tel- Aviv restaurant this summer. One of the worst attacks yet occurring in 2000 when two IDF reservists were lynched in Ramallah by Palestinians who hanged them, and tore their bodies apart before cannibalizing them. In November Palestinian terrorists conducted arson terror that burned down many houses and miles of forests in November. Why are you trying to give this beautiful and miraculous land to people that just want to burn it down? Their teachers and parents brainwash them to kill Jews, while Jewish schools teach tolerance.
    Why are you quick to label Palestinian Refugees but refuse to acknowledge Christian and Jewish refugees that live in Israel today? Do you not understand that without Israel the Jewish people till this day would have nowhere to go to escape the constant hatred and Antisemitism that is going on around the world? Just recently a woman in Paris was spit at for wearing a Star of David. Jewish girls were attacked by fireworks thrown by Palestinians in France. How can you be so ignorant?
    Open your Eyes! You stand there chanting “Free Palestine” when you don’t even know what you’re fighting for. And it hurts to see this. It hurts me to see people trying to destroy a beautiful land where people are just trying to live in peace amid the constant heartless and evil terrorism prompted by Palestinian terrorist groups. Palestinian Terrorist groups that YOU “progressives” inadvertently support.

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