Fordham Bans Students for Justice in Palestine

Palestine Legal, together with the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-counsel Alan Levine, filed a lawsuit in New York challenging Fordham University’s denial of club status to Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

 Fordham student Ahmad Awad. Photo: Martin Nunez-Bonilla

Fordham student Ahmad Awad. Photo: Martin Nunez-Bonilla

The decision to deny club status to SJP occurred in December 2016 – more than a year after Fordham students had applied to start an SJP club. The justification was that the group would create "polarization" on campus and "run contrary to the mission and values" embraced at Fordham.

Palestine Legal represents current and former Fordham students Ahmad Awad, Sofia Dadap, Sapphira Lurie and Julie Norris, who hoped to organize events on Palestinian history and raise awareness on the issue of Palestinian rights.

The case is being brought as a special proceeding under Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules. Students are seeking a judgment compelling Fordham to officially recognize SJP and provide it the same rights enjoyed by all other clubs at Fordham. Without club status, the students may not hold events, obtain funding, flyer or invite guest speakers.

The lawsuit argues that Fordham, a private university, violated Article 78 by failing to follow its own rules and policies that bar it from restricting students’ expressive activities based on the positions being advocated. New York courts have ruled that even private universities may not arbitrarily and capriciously violate their own rules.

Timeline

Jan. 3, 2018: Court hears oral arguments on Students’ preliminary injunction and Fordham’s motion to dismiss.

Dec. 22, 2017: Students file reply brief.

Dec. 15, 2017: Fordham files its brief opposing Students’ preliminary injunction and request for expedited discovery.

Nov. 2, 2017: Students file order to show cause why preliminary injunction should not be issued and expedited discovery granted against Fordham.

July 17, 2017: Fordham files its reply brief.

July 7, 2017: Students file brief opposing Fordham's motion to dismiss.

June 5, 2017: Fordham files motion to dismiss case.

Apr. 26, 2017: Students sue Fordham, seeking an order compelling approval of club status for SJP.

Jan. 17, 2017: Palestine Legal and CCR send letter to Fordham expressing concern over SJP denial.

Dec. 22, 2016: Fordham dean overrules the student government’s decision and denies club status to SJP in an unprecedented decision.

Nov. 17, 2016: Fordham’s student government votes to approve SJP as a club at Fordham.

Nov. 19, 2015: Fordham students submit application to form an SJP club as per Fordham's rules.

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Letters Supporting the Formation of SJP

  • Catholic clergy and professors letter

  • Fordham faculty letter

  • Friends of Sabeel North America letter

  • The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) letter and second letter

  • Jewish Voice for Peace letter

  • Middle East Studies Association letter

  • US Campaign for Palestinian Rights statement

  • US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel open letter

Legal Documents (in progress)