Legal advocacy group urges Duke University to recognize pro-Israel students or risk legal consequences

Duke University. Photo: Ilyse Whitney / CC BY 2.0.

A legal rights organization on Tuesday urged Duke University to grant full recognition to a pro-Israel academic group that was denied that status by the student government last month.

Recognition of Duke students supporting Israel was vetoed in November by the Duke Student Government Senate over complaints that his social media posts had “singled out” a student who had criticized his pro-Israel stance. Days later, that veto was largely upheld in a Senate session – a rare move that the Students Supporting Israel national said was based on a “standard that has never been applied to any student club in Canada. university… never ”.

Responding to outcry over the decision, Duke University President Vincent E. Price announced later that the university “has identified options for SSI to obtain financial and programmatic support” instead of formal recognition by the Senate and is investigating whether the decision was motivated by anti-Semitism.

But on Tuesday, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a pro-Israel advocacy group based in Washington, DC, said Price’s appeal was not enough to comply with federal law.

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“From its inception, Duke SSI has been treated differently from other student organizations by the Duke student government,” the group wrote in a letter to President Price. “When Duke SSI applied for recognition, it was subjected to a special test that other groups did not have to undergo. Duke SSI’s student representatives were subjected to extensive questioning before the DSG Senate voted on whether or not to approve the section’s request for official recognition.

The Brandeis Center cited a 2019 episode in which a pro-Israel student organization at Williams College was denied recognition, arguing that a similar administration response in the case had also failed – leading to a deal that resolved a civil rights complaint.

He also noted that Students for Duke Students for Justice in Palestine was not sanctioned by the DSG when, in 2019, one of its members retweeted a photo from a pro-Israel group and said: “Because that you’re all a bunch of racist clowns… So I’m going to repeat myself again, f ** k DIPAC and all the Zionists on campus.

“A university violates Title VI [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964] when its student government rejects a request for recognition by a Jewish student organization on the basis of standards that are not applied to non-Jewish groups, ”the Center said. “Duke must remedy this violation by providing Duke SSI with formal recognition and ensuring that it has access to the same resources and services as other groups of students.” “

Talk to The Algemeiner On Wednesday, Brandeis Center President Alyza Lewin argued that the university should act as “the adult in the room and correct a situation when it sees things going wrong.”

“Give them the same access,” Lewin said. “Do not treat them any differently from any other recognized student organization. If the university chooses not to intervene and does not ensure that SSI has equal access and it is understood that it is no different from any other organization, there could be potential legal liability. for university.

Such liability could fall under Title IV, if Duke SSI were subjected to more rigorous scrutiny based on national or ethnic origin. Or, according to Lewin, a US Department of Education to reign on religious freedom and free inquiry could apply – the product of a 2020 executive decree aimed at protecting free speech among students at private universities.

“If there are things done by the student government that are illegal or that violate the legal obligations of the university, it has an absolute responsibility to remedy them. He can’t ignore this, ”Lewin said. “Doing so would be at their own risk. They must intervene; they have to do it right.

Duke SSI President Alanna Peykar said the Alger Thursday that the chapter was “grateful” for the effort of the legal group.

“Given this statement from the Brandeis Center and Duke’s ongoing investigation, I am very optimistic about the future of SSI at Duke,” said Peykar.

Duke Price University President did not respond to a Alger request for comment.

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