Northwestern University Urged to Affirm Commitment to Free Speech

Credit: Northwestern SJP
Credit: Northwestern SJP

Letter: PSLS Urges Northwestern University President to Protect Rights of Students Calling for Divestment

Prior to Wednesday’s student government vote on a divestment resolution put forward by the student coalition NUDivest, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support sent Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro a letter encouraging the university to protect the rights of student groups who support divestment from companies that profit from Israeli human rights violations.

The letter alerts the President of recent hate messages and damaging false accusations of anti-Semitism against NUDivest students, and urges the university to respond appropriately to these incidents.  Attaching previous communications to the University, the letter highlights the common anti-Semitism accusations against students advocating for Palestinian rights and the legal threats and complaints made against universities under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.  These complaints by politically motivated Israel advocacy organizations have been roundly dismissed by the Department of Education on the basis that they did not allege discrimination on the basis of race or national origin, but rather complained of political speech activities protected by the First Amendment that are at heart political disagreements that “a reasonable student in higher education may experience.”

In a bid to preempt any negative responses or interference by the University, the letter asserts that:

Northwestern must affirm that students and faculty have the right to voice objections to Israeli policies, just as they have the right to voice support, without facing punitive measures, undue condemnation, or interference from their university or outside groups that disagree with their viewpoint.

It urges the President “to honor free speech values, to celebrate the deep engagement of Northwestern students in one of the world’s most difficult issues, and to allow the student democratic process to take its course.”

To read the full letter and its attachments, click here.