Update: GW Must Ensure Equal Application of Policy Re Flags

Credit: Jean Francois Gornet via Flickr

For immediate release on
December 10, 2015

Contact: Angela Campion, Palestine Legal

media@palestinelegal.org | 312-399-3863

Statement: George Washington University Must Ensure
Equal Application of Policy Regarding Flags

Palestine Legal is pleased that George Washington University has rescinded its November 3rd warning letter to pre-med student Ramie Abounaja and removed the incident from his record. However, Mr. Abounaja is still seeking clarification that GW will apply its policies equally, along with a written apology from GW for its discriminatory removal of his Palestinian flag, police investigation and reprimand.

According to a December 7th statement from GW, flags will only be removed when complaints are made to the GW police department. In other words, GW will continue to treat different messages in a disparate manner based on how much controversy they provoke. It is clear, from recent news coverage, as well as comments on GW's own Facebook page, that the university continues to allow flags on campus -- flags that garner no complaint. While a Palestinian flag may spark complaints because of longstanding issues regarding Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinians and denial of Palestinian self-determination, complaints by some who are opposed to the message a flag conveys -- or the national origin of its owner -- cannot justify its removal when other flags and banners hang freely.

Furthermore, Mr. Abounaja is still seeking a written apology from GW regarding its disproportionate police and administrative response. “This is not about hurt feelings, ‘created [by] a situation,’ but rather an incident where the university selectively enforced a vague residential policy based on complaints by other students who disagreed with a viewpoint of a message,” said Radhika Sainath, a staff attorney at Palestine Legal and cooperating counsel at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Because of GW’s actions, Mr. Abounaja, who plans to apply to medical school, has found it difficult to focus on his studies over the past month and a half.

Lastly, it has come to our attention that George Washington University has begun to “follow” Mr. Abounaja on Snapchat, a social media platform that allows users to share videos and photos. “In light of GW’s decision to turn a routine housing matter into a law enforcement investigation, this is particularly Orwellian,” said Radhika Sainath.

GW must ensure that university policies are applied equally and take the appropriate steps to resolve this matter in a fair and just manner.