Boston University Hillel Ejects Students of Color

BU Bridge (credit:  Jasonic )

BU Bridge (credit: Jasonic)

Palestine Legal, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyers Guild, Massachusetts Chapter wrote Boston University (BU) today demanding that the university apologize to nine students who were removed from a BU Hillel event and issue a statement to the campus community affirming that all students are welcome at open campus events, including Palestinian-American students, Muslim students and students active with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

On January 28, nine students, seven of whom are students of color, were ejected from a Boston University Hillel “All Students, All Israel Think Tank” event. The event, which included a discussion on “how to engage more students” and “combatting BDS” was advertised as open to the public. When the students asked why they weren’t allowed to attend the event, campus police told them “you’re not welcome” and threatened them with criminal trespass. Three of the nine ejected students are of Palestinian origin, six are Muslim, and seven are members of SJP.

The letter, written on behalf of BU students Marlene Kalb, Ibraheem Samirah and Negin Taleb notes:

It is clear, as reflected by comments from the police officer, that these students were removed from the event because Boston University Hillel complained about their presence, based on assumptions relating to the students’ national origins and religions or because they disagree with their viewpoints supporting Palestinian rights.

The letter explains how Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin by institutions that receive federal funding. In addition to requesting that BU apologize to the students and issue a statement, the letter also requests that the university require the BU Hillel event organizers to attend an anti-bias training on Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism.

Eight of the nine students were approached by campus police soon after arriving at the event, approximately ten minutes before it was scheduled to start. The ninth student, Palestinian-American dental student Ibraheem Samirah, arrived separately. He was soon approached and asked where he was from. Ibraheem said that he was born in Chicago, but that he was of Palestinian origin. Shortly thereafter, a police officer approached him and asked Ibraheem to follow him to another room, where he was subsequently threatened with criminal trespass along with Marlene, Negin and their friends.

The letter notes:

Fearful of being arrested, Ms. Kalb, Mr. Samirah, Ms. Taleb and their two remaining friends exited the room, under police escort. The experience left Ms. Kalb, Mr. Samirah and Ms. Taleb feeling humiliated, scared and like outsiders on their own campus. Ms. Samirah felt like he didn’t belong on BU’s campus, and that he wasn’t allowed to be part of a discussion because he was Palestinian, that his identity was viewed by BU and BU Hillel “as a negative” and that BU and BU Hillel “made me feel bad as a Palestinian.” 

“BU’s own policies prohibit discrimination,” says Radhika Sainath, an attorney with Palestine Legal. “Yet they ejected these students based on racist tropes and assumptions – and refuse to apologize.”

The full letter to Boston University can be found here. A video of the incident can be found here.