Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights wrote to the City University of New York (CUNY) today informing the college that the City College of New York’s (CCNY) cancellation of a May 3 event organized by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) violates the First Amendment. A university official had informed members of SJP that the cancellation was due to concerns that the event was controversial and would generate negative publicity.
The event, titled The General’s Son: The Transformation of an Israeli in Palestine, was scheduled to feature Israeli-American writer and activist Miko Peled and was organized by SJP at CCNY, a college in the CUNY system.
The Supreme Court has long established that public universities are bound by the First Amendment. This means that public universities may not impede campus expression because it is controversial, and may not discriminate against speech activities on the basis of viewpoint.
“CCNY’s cancellation of SJP’s event is a cookie-cutter case of unconstitutional censorship,” said Radhika Sainath, Senior Staff Attorney with Palestine Legal. “There’s no ‘negative publicity’ exception to free speech. And the university may not hold SJP to a different standard, merely because they support Palestinian rights.”
In a meeting last week, CCNY’s director of student life informed members of SJP that their event was being cancelled despite the fact that they had properly submitted their paperwork in January. He admitted to SJP members that their events garner extra scrutiny from administrators because they’re controversial. Later that evening, the same director contradicted himself, informing the students the event was being cancelled because the proper paperwork was not on file.
The letter demands that CCNY allow the May 3 event to go forward as planned and apologize to SJP.
See Palestine Legal and CCR’s letter here.