Op-Ed, Opinion

OP-ED: Discrimination at BU Hillel

Op-Eds do not reflect the editorial opinion of The Daily Free Press. They are solely the opinion of the author.

On Jan. 28, 2016, I was kicked out of a Boston University building. I was one of several BU students removed from the “All Students, All Israel Think Tank” event, which was hosted by the Florence and Chafetz Hillel House at Boston University and Israel Campus Roundtable and advertised as open to all students. After merely arriving and sitting at the event, we were immediately approached by an armed Boston University police officer who informed us that BU Hillel organizers told her that we were not part of an undefined “inner circle,” that we were not welcome at the event and that we had to leave. Our group was almost entirely comprised of students of Middle Eastern, South Asian and East Asian origins, and I was the only Jewish student at the event with views that are critical of Israel. In addition, we are all associated with Palestinian human rights advocacy.

As soon as we were approached, we began video recording our exchange with the armed officers and an event organizer. After we continued to press for answers, we were approached by one of the event organizers who told us that we were being removed from the event because the organizers deemed all of us as disruptive prior to the event start.

Another BU student, Ibraheem, arrived later and was immediately approached by a police officer who informed him that he also would not be allowed to attend the event and that he was considered disruptive. RSVPs were not required for the event, but Ibraheem was still asked to leave despite the fact that he registered ahead of time. The officer was grouping us all together and said that we were collectively not welcome. The officer then asserted that we would be subject to arrest on the basis of “trespassing … from [a] lawful perspective,” if we did not leave. Soon after, we were approached by Assistant Dean of Students John Battaglino, who also told us that Hillel had the right to ask us to leave.

It is clear to us that our expulsion from the event was due to discrimination against both our backgrounds and our viewpoints. The message that BU Hillel sent to us that day could not be more clear: Despite its claim that Hillel is inclusive, it does not welcome all students. BU Hillel is a BU-owned building with a public BU dining hall and should be held to the same standards as any other facility on campus, namely that BU events should be open to all students. Instead, we were pushed out and prohibited from attending an event advertised as open to the public on BU’s campus. After trying to clarify with Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore, he confirmed, “As long as Hillel is holding or sponsoring a program that is open to the campus community or the public, you may enter Hillel and participate in such programs.”

We have made repeated attempts to engage with the university and resolve this matter, but Hillel and our administration have refused to apologize. Hillel’s response to the video has been to deflect criticism by focusing on the anger expressed by one individual following our expulsion from the event. They have yet to act with accountability or admit that it was inappropriate to collectively remove us. The administration has also disappointed us by avoiding accountability and not holding Hillel to the university’s standards. The only response that I received from the administration was from Dean Elmore, who mentioned that he would “think about” making a public statement affirming that what transpired was wrong. We have not received an update since.

The day I was accused of trespassing on my own campus grounds, I had to confront the reality that in the eyes of BU Hillel and BU’s administration, I do not belong here. The traumatizing incident at Hillel was a literal manifestation of what many students critical of Israel and students of color already feel. What was more sobering was the harsh reality of being a Jewish woman kicked out of an organization and a space that is supposed to advocate for the needs of Jewish students on campus. Unfortunately, according to a recent report by Jewish Voice for Peace, I am just one of many Jewish students around the country that have been ostracized from their own communities because of their political views on Israel and Palestine.

Coming to BU as a Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar in the fall of 2012, I was inspired by Dr. King’s time at BU and believed this university would offer me a place to carry out his teachings of radical social justice. Instead, where I expected to find support for social justice and free and open debate, I encountered hostility and suppression. The truth is, when people in positions of power such as university administrators and Hillel leaders and staff refuse to take a stance on instances of discrimination, silencing and intimidation, the most vulnerable students are the ones who end up bearing the price. It is time for our administrators and the BU Hillel staff to begin standing up for students and to recognize that discrimination is not up for debate.

Marlo Kalb, [email protected]

12 Comments

  1. The writer of this article sounds like a typical self righteous anti semitic and racist creep who equipped with video equipment wanted to disrupt an event.

    • Video equipment??? You mean an iPhone??? Also please explain how this is racist lol jeeeez

    • Ibraheem Samirah

      Shame on you for personalizing your hate towards a Jewish American victim of discrimination. Just another way of showing the true colors of those that support the discrimination perpetuated by Boston University Hillel.

    • Self righteous sounds more like you, if you ask me 🙂

  2. just an insecure loser if you ask me

  3. Sick of your crap

    Stop whining and find something better to do with your time than be a pain in the arse at other events people are working hard to put on. If you want to express your view point get a blog. If you feel you are being discriminated against or aren’t welcome at BU then leave because that is so far from the truth in a place like BU.

    • oh, really? Tell me more how you think discrimination doesn’t happen at BU. This campus is so privileged and self-indulgent it should come as no surprise that there are people like this who just go on with their lives pretending that other students never face discrimination or racism. This is gross.

  4. Sounds like a #millenial who went into an event anticipating that they’d be antagonized, and who used that outcome to try and support their position. My guess is that you all showed up in your “Free Palestine” gear and probably didn’t send across a message that you’d be politely participating in the discussion.

  5. I mean if you are known to be anti-Israel and public about it on campus, why is it surprising that you were asked to leave a pro-Israel event?

    If your very presences makes people uncomfortable at a private event them asking you to leave may not be the absolutely best response, but it is understandable and acceptable.

    Also you were pretty hostile to the officer, so not sure why you expect sympathy. You can’t really hide behind discrimination here. You have to deal with the consequences of your actions. You said things that aliened a group of people and as such they did not want you to attend their event where you could be potentially disruptive. This coming from someone who never particularly liked hillel or wanted anything to do with them.

    • Wait what kind of logical leaps are you going through to try and justify the expulsion of someome from somewhere based on their views? So like, if you are anti-republican its OK for you to be removed from an event for republicans? or if you are anti-democrat its ok for you to not be able to attend a college democrats event?? Come on now. And if no one did anything to make anyone feel uncomfortable AT the event itself, then their discomfort is really unwarranted – not understandable and not acceptable for sure.

  6. As a former student group leader, I would never force an opposing opinion out of the room for an event, whether I had the grounds to or not. You cannot grow if you don’t hear other points of view. For an institution to do this at BU, that goes against everything a college stands for. In fact, I had known agitators from Hillel attend one of my groups events and we welcomed them with open arms. Hillel has a censorship problem, and that must be fixed as that is not what a university stands for.

  7. Today college pupils act like cry babies that want a milk bottle! It would be a excellent idea for the federal government to have all persons who get a drivers license or ID card to take a US constitution class with a passing. Before anyone could apply for either!