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November 20, 2014 / 27 Heshvan, 5775
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CUNY Claim of No Constitutional Violations at BC BDS Event Flawed

The standard for judging whether constitutional rights can be abrogated is not, as the Investigators claimed in their Report, based on sincerity, but on whether or not, at the very least, there was a reasonable belief that the Four were about to disrupt the BC BDS event. The Investigators stated clearly that there was no such reasonable belief at the time the Four were ejected from the event. Doesn't this mean the Investigators drew the wrong conclusion?

Brooklyn College BDS forum, Feb. 7, 2013

Brooklyn College BDS forum, Feb. 7, 2013
Photo Credit: Facebook

Alex Kane, who had already written about the “hitch-free event,” began reporting that the Four caused a disturbance so great it warranted their ejection.  Kane’s post-revelation report suddenly contained descriptions of students disrupting the speaker by “talking,” “passing out anti-BDS flyers,” and being so belligerent they had to be removed by security guards.

Eventually Kane wrote something of a correction – which he called “an update.” With respect to those “anti-BDS flyers” (informational sheets) that Kane quoted the SJP activists as saying the Expelled were passing out?  To whom were they passing them?  Why it was:”[update: amongst each other].”

Despite the dramatic difference between handing out leaflets to the audience during a speech and handing them to the people sitting next to you with whom you came, Kane doubled-down on blaming The Four.  He wrote, “I have since spoken to SJP member Carlos Guzman, who told me the same story” [from his previous article].  He also wrote that “it’s not only SJP students that dispute the story from Goldberg and Ziegler.” Where else did he see blame cast on the Four?  Why, “the Brooklyn College administration’s” statement.  Which was made – entirely, we shall learn – in reliance on statements made by Guzman.

SJP STATEMENT BLAMED THE BEHAVIOR OF THE FOUR FOR THEIR OUSTER

The official SJP statement regarding the ouster of The Four was issued on February 14.

During Judith Butler’s speech, four students were removed from the room by security for disturbing others sitting near them. The individuals in question were speaking loudly enough to prompt people sitting around them to ask them to be quiet. They were talking, shuffling papers, and moving noisily around in their seats for several minutes, while Dr. Butler was talking, prompting complaints from other attendees sitting nearby.

Because the acoustics in the room were poor and Dr. Butler was speaking softly, their actions prevented those around them from hearing her well.

The decision to remove these individuals was made by organizers after consulting with security, after they failed to comply with requests to be quiet. Their removal was based solely on the fact that they were disturbing guests around them.

THE FACTS GARNERED BY THE INVESTIGATION

Guzman is not a Brooklyn College student. He had been a leader in the Hunter College Students for Justice in Palestine group in the fall of 2012.  However, in 2013, when the planning for and the event took place, Guzman was not a student at all, anywhere, although he continued to play a leadership role in “Students” for Justice in Palestine.  (R.p. 3) Guzman was present at many meetings with Brooklyn College faculty and administration in preparation for the Feb. 7 event. (R.pp. 7, 16, 21, 22).

After the Feb. 4 major planning meeting in preparation for the BDS event, Brooklyn College administrators told both Guzman and Sundus Seif, the head of BC’s SJP group, that “the forum was to be treated as a student club event, rather than a college event and that the students and the faculty marshalls would be responsible for maintaining order.” (R. p. 21).  Seif acted as the master of ceremonies for the event, and Guzman essentially played the role of field marshall.

Why did BC officials turn over responsibility for maintaining order to the students? Perhaps this decision was driven by the impulse to draw a distinction between BC and what some described as a virulently anti-Israel event.  It remains hard to understand, however, how that impulse was indulged by permitting an irresponsible and potentially dangerous delegation of authority.

Based upon interviews with 23 students, listening to audiotapes of the event and other material, the Investigators’ Report included the following information.

Unequivocal conclusions of the Investigators

♦  There was no justification for the removal of the Four. (R.p. 32)

♦ The Four did not create a “disturbance.” (R.p. 32)

♦ The speaker – despite being soft-spoken and the communications system not working perfectly – could be heard with perfect clarity throughout the time the Four were present. (R.p. 32)

♦ Any noise made by the Four was the result of their late entry [a result of the problems explored in issue I.] (R.p. 32)

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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6 Responses to “CUNY Claim of No Constitutional Violations at BC BDS Event Flawed”

  1. Stan Brin says:

    Anybody stupid enough to expect a different opinion?

  2. Gil Gilman says:

    No!

  3. Gil Gilman says:

    This report reminds me of a Mark Twain quote, "there are lies, damned lies, and statistics." I leave it to you the reader to prove that the 36 page report doesn't fall under all three categories.

  4. Alan Kardon says:

    This is a publicly funded school. Why are we hearing that it was run by incompetent people. Let some heads roll and get better administrators.

  5. An incompetently run event is bad enough. A politically slanted event is worse, though not exactly a big surprise. BUT — a report by intelligent lawyers, at a fancy law firm, paid, no doubt, lots of tax dollars do to their 36 page legal analysis — for such a report to get the law WRONG? That's a big problem.

    I hope the students whose rights were violated have read this article, and the report, and that they are prepared to do something about it. This being America, the thing to do when your rights are violated is to hold the violators to account. In court.

  6. Anonymous says:

    As I listen to the Boston events today the uncle of the bombers said that they were not raised like this. He said they must have been radicalized elsewhere. My first thought was that they probably went to a BDS event on campus. This is why BDS, and other hate organizations, should be kept off campuses.

    This is what Karen Gould, BC President doesn't understand. This wasn't about free speech. This was about prevention of violence.

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