Letter to the Editor: The de-recognition of SJP is a blatant violation of student rights and free speech
Dear Brandeis community,
On Nov. 6, 2023, the Students for Justice in Palestine was derecognized by the Department of Student Affairs after they planned to hold a demonstration for the over 10,000 Palestinian lives lost in the Israel-Hamas war. The vigil was set to take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Shapiro Campus Center.
In a move that heavily implied pre-meditation, President Liebowitz wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe, released the morning of Oct. 6, in which he referenced “university-chartered organizations” as being complicit in antisemitism. He then said that “leaders at colleges and universities must find their moral compass and no longer allow speech that constitutes harassment or threat of violence to flourish on our campus.” The op-ed was released hours prior to when Brandeis’s SJP announced on Instagram that they were de-recognized. Apparently, a vigil constituted a “threat of violence” worthy of stripping a student group of their rights and protections.
The vigil was set to be a commemoration of life lost, just as the vigil held last month on campus for Israeli life lost was — and praised for. It was set to be a time to hold space for grief, just like the other vigil was — and praised for.
Further, the decision to derecognize SJP did not go through the Student Union, which goes against the Union’s constitution. As a student journalist, a Justice editorial board member, and a proud Jew, I am furious, disgusted, and disheartened at the blatant disregard of free speech, student rights, and commitment to holding space for a diversity of thought and experiences by the University in this measure. It is a slap in the face to the so-called democratic values the school claims to hold.
However, despite the attempted shutdown, the vigil still took place at 6:30 p.m. It was an entirely peaceful demonstration, including over 100 students, and was the most impactful experience I have had at Brandeis so far in my undergraduate experience.
I am in awe of the bravery of the students who showed up — many of whom were not affiliated with SJP — who chose to speak for themselves, for their stories, for their families, and in support of each other in the face of the University’s blatant attempt to silence student expression of grief and the right to mourn.
All students deserve the opportunities to speak out and up for their communities and peers without fear of retribution — especially retribution from the University that claims to represent and protect them.
Anonymous Justice Editor