Update: Fordham University Moves to Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging SJP Ban

On Monday, Fordham University moved to dismiss a lawsuit filed on behalf of Fordham students by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Palestine Legal challenging the university’s refusal to grant official club status to Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) on campus. In doing so, Fordham has chosen to forego the opportunity to resolve the issue amicably, opting instead for a protracted legal battle.

Fordham’s motion to dismiss misconstrues the lawsuit’s claims by inaccurately portraying it as a First Amendment challenge. Fordham claims that the college's concern was that SJP would be a polarizing presence on its campus, but acknowledges having invited to the campus such self-evidently polarizing figures as Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove. In admitting that it asked SJP club organizers to consider changing the club's name, Fordham concedes its true concern, namely, SJP's link to the worldwide campaign for Palestinian justice.

As the world marks fifty years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, groups like the proposed SJP at Fordham play a vital role in helping to shift domestic public opinion away from uncritical support for Israeli policies. Fordham’s ban on SJP reflects a broader trend of growing hostility towards advocacy for Palestinian rights. Efforts to censor and suppress speech critical of Israeli government policies, often at the behest of Israel advocacy groups, are widespread across the U.S., as illustrated by the flurry of proposed state laws aimed at countering boycott campaigns for Palestinian rights.

Indeed, in an affidavit accompanying Fordham’s motion to dismiss, Dean of Students Keith Eldredge confirmed that his decision to deny SJP official club status was based at least in part on unfounded allegations, published in rightwing outlets like The Algemeiner and by organizations like the Anti-Defamation League that are openly hostile to Palestinian rights advocacy, about unaffiliated SJP groups on other campuses. Eldredge himself cautions in his affidavit that he is “not commenting on the accuracy” of the very media reports he relied on.

Read Fordham’s memorandum of law in support of its motion to dismiss here, and accompanying affidavits from Fordham Dean of Students Keith Eldredge and Director of the Office for Student Involvement Dorothy A. Wenzel.  

For more information about the lawsuit, and for additional updates on anti-boycott legislation please see the websites of Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights.