Kent State fails to defend students against false terrorism accusations

Today, Palestine Legal sent a letter to Kent State University President Beverley Warren expressing outrage over the University’s failure to defend students falsely accused of supporting terrorism.

The accusation was made after members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and ally organizations called on the University to remove a public display of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, citing her anti-Palestinian and anti-African policies and statements. The University at first ignored the students’ demands to remove the display, then weeks later assured the students that “all appropriate parties” would be consulted before a decision would be made. The students were surprised when the University rejected the students’ demands without consulting with them.

An email from an AOL account targeting SJP’s faculty adviser and his “terror supporting friends” was subsequently sent to President Warren, with SJP’s faculty adviser, and students who had supported the removal of the Golda Meir display cc’d. A University spokesperson responded swiftly to the email, assuring the AOL account holder that the University would not remove the display. Although the targeted students and SJP faculty adviser were included in the email exchange, the University spokesperson failed to denounce the false terrorism charges. The University has taken no steps to offer support for the students.

“It appears that the University was so concerned about bad publicity over the Golda Meir criticism, that they failed to stand up for their students who were being targeted,” said Palestine Legal staff attorney Rahul Saksena. “In the current political environment, now is not the time to neglect the safety of students, particularly Muslim and Arab students and students of color, for the sake of P.R.”

Palestine Legal’s letter notes that while baseless attacks against Palestinian and Muslim students are not new, the current political climate makes such attacks much more dangerous:

“Because these events occurred at a time when Palestinian, Muslim, Black, and immigrant communities are facing increasing hostility and danger from a growing segment of the population, the right-wing media, and the incoming executive, it is crucial that you consider the implications of your failure to take any action supportive of the students.”

Read Palestine Legal’s letter here.