Palestine Legal, together with the Center for Constitutional Rights, defended leaders of Brooklyn College Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) in a 5-hour disciplinary hearing.
In spring 2016, two well-known leaders of City University of New York-Brooklyn College SJP were investigated, charged with student conduct violations and ultimately exonerated after they briefly protested during a faculty council meeting to voice concerns over tuition increases, faculty diversity, police surveillance and other topics.
Palestine Legal represented the two Brooklyn College students, Sarah Aly and Thomas DeAngelis, who together with an ad-hoc group of eight other students, engaged in a call-and-response interruption, or “mic check.” During the mic check, one of the other students, not with SJP, spontaneously mentioned Zionism. Shortly after the mic check, then-Brooklyn College President Karen L. Gould sent an email to the campus community falsely accusing the students of antisemitism.
Aly and DeAngelis, both graduating seniors, faced possible expulsion for the brief protest. None of the other students had a disciplinary hearing.
In a widely-reported letter to City University of New York Chancellor James B. Milliken, the Zionist Organization of America suggested that SJP was behind the mic check and accused, without evidence, the students of yelling an antisemitic comment at the meeting chairperson, Yedidyah Langsam. Langsam denied hearing the comment, which could not be substantiated after months of investigation.
Palestine Legal and CCR represented Aly and DeAngelis at their May 19, 2016 hearing, arguing that the investigation and disciplinary charges would not have occurred had a third student not mentioned Zionism during the mic check – a content- and viewpoint-based punishment in violation of the First Amendment.
There was a significant police presence outside the hearing, with reports of at least eight police officers.
Ultimately, after a 5-hour long hearing, which included testimony from several professors on Aly and DeAngelis’ behalf, the faculty-student disciplinary committee found Aly and DeAngelis “not responsible” on three out four charges – intentional obstruction, unauthorized occupancy and disorderly or indecent conduct. On the fourth charge, “failure to comply with lawful directions,” the two students received an admonition, the minimum penalty.
- Were these College Students Targeted for Disciplinary Action Because of their Pro-Palestine Politics?, Aviva Stahl, The Nation (September 18, 2016)