Fordham Student Forced into Closed-door Hearing, Leaves in Protest

Professors gather outside in support

Sapphira Lurie speaks at a rally to defend Fordham SJP on February 21. Photo:  Joe Catron/FlickrCommons

Sapphira Lurie speaks at a rally to defend Fordham SJP on February 21. Photo: Joe Catron/FlickrCommons

Sapphira Lurie was unable to testify at her scheduled hearing today after Dean of Students Keith Eldredge insisted that she meet alone with him, behind closed doors, with a white-noise machine turned on. Eldredge issued the disciplinary charge against Sapphira after she, along with other students, protested Eldredge’s decision to deny Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) club status. Fifteen professors gathered outside in support of Sapphira.

Sapphira arrived at the dean’s office for her hearing at 10:30 a.m., along with her attorney from Palestine Legal, Radhika Sainath, and Professor Fawzia Mustafa. She asked if she could bring her lawyer or Professor Mustafa into the room as a witness. Dean Eldredge declined Sapphira’s request. Sapphira then asked if she could bring any witness into the room, or if the door to the room could remain open. Dean Eldredge told Sapphira that Fordham policy required he meet with her alone, behind closed doors.

Sainath told Eldredge that Fordham policy contained no provision forbidding the presence of a witness, or requiring that the door remain shut, providing a copy of the Student Conduct Policy. Eldredge agreed that there was no language forbidding a lawyer, professor, or third party, requiring the door stay closed, or that a white noise machine be turned on.

Sapphira stated that she did not feel comfortable meeting alone with Dean Eldredge, and that she did not see why the door had to remain closed. Given these requirements, Sapphira stated she would be unable to proceed with the hearing, but that she would be happy to answer any questions via email.

Over 100 Fordham faculty signed a petition calling on Fordham to drop the charge against Sapphira and approve SJP. On the eve of the hearing, students and community members organized a rally on Sapphira’s behalf.

“It’s unconscionable that Dean Eldredge, citing made-up policies, prevented a student from providing her side of the story because she felt unsafe,” said Sainath. “This is the textbook definition of a kangaroo court.”