Today, Palestine Legal wrote to the president of St. Louis University to express outrage over the school’s decision to discipline sophomore Christopher Winston for expressing his political viewpoints at a student-organized event about Israel’s humanitarian aid around the world. SLU’s decision to punish Mr. Winston, who is black, raises serious questions about the university’s ability to implement its policies in a manner that does not discriminate on the basis of race and in a manner that respects diverse political viewpoints.
SLU’s punishment of Mr. Winston comes amid growing frustration over the university’s mishandling of an incident involving racist messages from SLU baseball players.
The sanctions against Mr. Winston stem from an April 4th campus event, “Israel: First Responders to World Crisis.” During the question-and-answer portion of the event, Mr. Winston asked critical questions about Israel's first responders’ policies towards Palestinians. His questions were met with hostility by the event hosts, who at one point threatened to call campus security to remove Mr. Winston, the only black person in the room. In response, as Mr. Winston left the event, he said, “Thank you, your Zionist fascism is on full display today.”
On May 11 Mr. Winston was informed by an administrator that he had been found to have engaged in a “bias related incident.” Mr. Winston had not once been consulted or given the opportunity to state his side of the story by the university team that made this determination.
Mr. Winston was also found to have violated university policy prohibiting “disruptive behavior” due to the “manner in which he presented himself” at the April 4th event. Video of Mr. Winston’s questioning at the April 4th event can be found here.
Mr. Winston has appealed the decision.