Campus, News

Student activists release four demands in response to “discrimination”

Four demands have been posed in response to police ejecting a number of students at the “All Students, All Israel Think Tank,” event held at Florence and Chafetz Hillel House Jan. 28. PHOTO BY SARAH SILBIGER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Four demands have been posed in response to police ejecting a number of students at the “All Students, All Israel Think Tank,” event held at Florence and Chafetz Hillel House Jan. 28. PHOTO BY SARAH SILBIGER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

A number of Boston University students announced four demands directed toward the BU administration and BU Hillel following a Jan. 28 incident in which they claim to have been removed from the Florence and Chafetz Hillel House due to “discrimination against [their] racial backgrounds,” according to a Wednesday release sent to The Daily Free Press.

The first demand requested a public apology from Hillel, BU President Robert Brown, BU Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore and BU Assistant Dean of Students and Executive Director of Student Activities John Battaglino.

The second demand asked for cultural sensitivity training for Hillel staff. The third requested the publication of any information that depicts a “financial or political” relationship between Hillel International, BU Hillel and the university. The final demand requested that the Hillel House be an available space for “all Boston University-wide functions.”

Elmore stated in an email that he “[had] been and will be communicating with the students involved,” and Battaglino also wrote in an email that he would prefer to speak directly with the students. Neither administrator had further comments.

Ibraheem Samirah, one of the BU students removed from the “All Students, All Israel” think tank, said the list of demands is not a result of just this one incident. Rather, he said similar incidents have occurred across the United States.

“This [discrimination] is something that’s been happening,” said Samirah, a second-year doctoral student in the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine. “We are sending a message out that this is not OK on our behalf. As students at Boston University, we’re going to set the example at Boston University. Just by ourselves, because that’s what happened to us.”

Marlo Kalb, another student who was removed, clarified that the students did not come together to the function as a group. However, a majority of the students were Palestinian and empathetic toward the Palestinians’ struggles, Kalb said.

“We need to really push the conversation … so that racial profiling don’t happen again,” said Kalb, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. “Jews who are pro-Palestine … [have] been ostracized from their own Jewish community … It has really affected my life on campus.”

In response to an editorial on the incident published Thursday by The Daily Free Press, Hillel Director David Raphael submitted a letter to the editor stating that a video recording of the incident did not show “aggressive actions of at least two of the students.”

Raphael wrote one of the students had “yelled obscenities and prevented the meeting from carrying on its business.” The actions mentioned gave Boston University Police Department officers reason to dismiss the students, Raphael stated.

Though the link to the function described it as a public event, Raphael clarified that it was actually a private planning meeting and noted that it was the organizers’ mistake not to specify this in advance.

“We will be clearer on differentiating between public activities and private meetings,” Raphael wrote.

Kalb said the student Raphael described was a male, non-affiliated student she and the rest of the students did not personally know. Kalb explained that “his actions don’t speak for the rest of [their] action,” and he had requested to not be included in the video.

“We were asked to leave way before he said those things,” Kalb said.

The release outlined the chronology that led to the removal of eight BU students and the non-affiliated student, Kalb explained. The following incident was also shown in an edited video recording.

Seven BU students, “almost entirely comprised of students of Middle Eastern, South Asian and East Asian origins,” according to the release, sat down around a table when a policewoman approached them and said the organizers had ordered the removal of the students. The students then demanded that the policewoman clarify the reason behind their removal, to which she said that the think tank was a private function.

Samirah arrived after the incident and was denied entrance to the function by a policeman though he had previously RSVPed, according to the video and the release. The police then addressed the students, said they had disrupted the event and declared their action from a lawful perspective as trespassing.

Battaglino then addressed the group of students following the train of arguments. In the video, Battaglino said “[the organizers] can … say, ‘Hey, you’re welcome,’ but if for whatever reason they feel like it’s disrupting, they have the right to say, ‘I’m sorry, we want you to leave.’”

Several students said they wondered why the two sides of the story contradict each other.

Emili Husain, a freshman in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said while she does not observe racial discrimination on campus, she would be deeply concerned if what the students described was true.

“I don’t really know which side to believe, so it is hard to make a comment,” Husain said. “If these people did not do anything wrong, then they deserve an apology. But if Hillel is telling the truth, it will be a different story.”

Luis Garcia, a sophomore in the School of Hospitality Administration, said the university has the right to ask students to leave if there were being disruptive, but if not, then the administration should apologize.

“I hope there was not any racial discrimination,” Garcia said. “If [the students] were being disruptive, then they should be escorted out. But if they weren’t being disruptive and [were] just kicked out, then it is an issue. Something needs to be done.”

Amanda Rosenberg, a junior in the College of Fine Arts, said that as a Jewish student, she agreed with the administration’s decision to tell the students to leave, regardless of if the students were disruptive or peaceful.

“I don’t think they deserve an apology,” Rosenberg said. “Even if they weren’t being disruptive, they were not hurt by [being asked] to leave, which is the right of any organization or association. I could be asked to leave the building, and that is their right.”

Alex Li contributed to the reporting of this article. 

8 Comments

  1. Of course they are going to be ejected if they had associated themselves with someone who shouted obscenities at students and made them feel uncomfortable and unsafe:

    http://imgur.com/gallery/8ibN9/new

    The fact of the matter is that these students were not removed for their political views, or racial affiliations; they were removed because they had either not previously signed up to attend the event or had made other students (that had previously rsvp’d) feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Also, Hillel is private property, affiliated with BU but not owned by BU – if the Hillel director did decide that the group was trespassing, then he is allowed to ask them to leave (and if they refuse, have security/police escort them).

    • Your arguments are easily refuted.

      1) “Of course they are going to be ejected if they had associated themselves with someone who shouted obscenities at students and made them feel uncomfortable and unsafe”
      As I stated in the article, we did not know him. We were grouped with him by the police officer and organizers because he was sitting next to us. However, he acted alone.
      Also, even if they wanted to associate us with him, we were asked to leave way before this person ever yelled obscenities or was being “disruptive”.

      2. “The fact of the matter is that these students were not removed for their political views, or racial affiliations; they were removed because they had either not previously signed up to attend the event or had made other students (that had previously rsvp’d) feel uncomfortable or unsafe. ”
      No, this is a clear case of discrimination. We were not making any students uncomfortable or unsafe by just sitting at a table. If us sitting at an event makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, then THAT is profiling and discrimination.
      Also, one student who was asked to leave had RSVP’d and was still not let into the event.

      3. “Also, Hillel is private property, affiliated with BU but not owned by BU – if the Hillel director did decide that the group was trespassing, then he is allowed to ask them to leave (and if they refuse, have security/police escort them).”
      This is false and you should probably due your homework. The BU Hillel building is owned by BU and it is a BU facility. Dean Elmore told me himself and I have paperwork to prove it. The Hillel director had no right to kick us out. It was illegal.

  2. Catherine Caldwell-Harris

    Some students who had the appearance of being sympathetic to the Palestinian cause were asked to leave before doing anything disruptive. This is so sad because our world needs more dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, not less.

  3. Joe -- alumni dad

    This sort of thing is, of course, not limited to BU. Outside Zionist groups have been making a concerted effort to shut down any voices that do not go along with their agenda. Good for you students for standing up against this injustice

  4. I’m having a bit of trouble understanding the rationale behind the last demand (“that the Hillel House be an available space for ‘all Boston University-wide functions'”). The first three are unquestionably justified if a group of students was discriminated against, but making a Hillel house available for all functions seems to defeat the point of a Hillel house.

    • Yes, it would seem to defeat the point if the Hillel House was A) privately and independently funded and B) not an entire building with services such as a faculty dinning hall for instance.

      In fact, BU Hillel is required to be open to events since it is owned by Boston University, except in some cases such as the one in the article where folks are ostracised for their support of Palestine or their political opinions otherwise.

  5. BU is a private institution. By extension, Hillel is a private organization. At private universities, rights can be limited since it isn’t a public space, by the definition of the constitution. For example, protestors can be ejected from political rallies. The Hillel administration has every legal right to remove you from the premises if they felt like you were being disruptive. Since the narrative is not clear, there is no proof you were removed for racial or political reason (you are not a POC and would have to prove you were removed solely for you political beleifs), and there is no proof you did or did not know a person using harsh language, then there is no basis for this continued complaint. If the administrators believed you to be associated with the disruptor, then their reasoning wouldn’t be based on your own specific views but to prevent further disruption.

    Please, do not insult the writers of the Freep when you may not understand the legality. I also urge you to consult a lawyer if you do feel discriminated against.

  6. “BU is a private institution. By extension, Hillel is a private organization. At private universities, rights can be limited since it isn’t a public space, by the definition of the constitution. ”

    However, if a private institution is a recipient of Federal funding, as BU is, then its right to discriminate is very much circumscribed under Federal law. Everybody here seems to agree that the Hillel House in question is in a building that is owned by BU, therefore, Hillel;s right to discriminate against students attending one of its events on racial ethnic grounds is also circumscribed. Hopefully, the students in question have sought out the advice of an attorney and will undertake whatever action is permitted to them under the law.