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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Bryan Cave’

Unacceptable: Brooklyn College Effort to End BDS Event Disaster

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

The Brooklyn College students who were expelled from a Brooklyn College public event, and publicly chastised by a Brooklyn College official find are deeply disappointed in the response of the school’s report concerning the event, based on the investigation it conducted and the recommendations on which it is based, issued by the General Counsel for City University of New York and an outside law firm and (2) the inadequate “apology” issued by the BC president.

The lawyers representing several of those students informed the school that the inadequate response is unacceptable.  The students, through their legal representatives, insisted that in order to begin to right the very serious wrongs in which the school played a major role, administrators, professors, employees and student groups must be subject to disciplinary proceedings. The school has not yet responded.

On February 7, Brooklyn College was the site of a BDS (Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel) event at which two speakers virulently opposed to the state of Israel shared with the audience why they should promote the economic and political warfare method of BDS.

The Brooklyn College Political Science Department endorsed and co-sponsored the event which was run by the pro-Arab Palestinian group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).  Many pro-Israel Brooklyn College students, as well as members of the wider community, opposed the event or at least opposed the sponsorship by the BC academic department.

The event went forward, with the official endorsement of the college president, Karen Gould, who emphasized her support of the event was based not on any agreement with the concept of BDS, but on the need to honor and promote academic freedom.  She also encouraged all those who disagreed with the premise of BDS to attend the event and engage in the debate. She wrote:

As an institution of higher education, it is incumbent upon us to uphold the tenets of academic freedom and allow our students and faculty to engage in dialogue and debate on topics they may choose, even those with which members of our campus and broader community may vehemently disagree. As your president, I consistently have demonstrated my commitment to these principles so that our college community may consider complex issues and points of view across the political and cultural spectrum.

The Event did go forward.  Points of view across the political and cultural spectrum? Not so much.

As has been reported here and elsewhere, four Jewish pro-Israel students (the Brooklyn College Four) were ejected from the event, allegedly for creating a disturbance and being disrespectful.

The students were ejected from the public event despite the agreement of virtually everyone at the event – at least once they knew that the veracity of their statements were being examined, that there was no disturbance.  There was one lone, unnamed, non-student woman who allegedly told SJP students working at the sign-in desk (outside of the event room) that the students later expelled were “creating a disturbance” and that she “thought they were handing out flyers.” This person has not been identified and was not interviewed by the investigators.

Evidence gathered through the investigation confirmed that Brooklyn College and CUNY officials and faculty placed complete, discretionary control over public safety and constitutional liberties of everyone at the event in the hands of someone who was not only not a CUNY administrator, faculty member, or public safety personnel – even though there were multiple members of every one of those categories on site that night.  Even worse, the person who was given complete control over the rights of all attendees is someone who had absolutely no connection to BC or CUNY at all.  This person, Carlos Guzman, was the creator and strongest possible advocate of the BDS event; he had incentive, and no professional responsibility, to respect, support or protect the views of those who opposed the BC BDS event. A thorough critique of the Report is available here.

Although the Investigators, through the Report, unequivocally stated “there was no justification for the removal of the four students,” because “nothing the four students had done gave rise to a reasonable fear that a disturbance was about to erupt,” the rebuke offered by these three lawyers was to state that the “Brooklyn College administrators did not handle this event well.” Quite.

CUNY Claim of No Constitutional Violations at BC BDS Event Flawed

Friday, April 19th, 2013

There was much sturm und drang about “free speech rights” and “academic freedom” in the buildup to a February 7, one-sided anti-Israel event at Brooklyn College, co-sponsored by BC’s political science department, along with the student group, Students for Justice in Palestine.  The event, to promote the form of economic and political warfare against Israel known as BDS (Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel) went forward.

Suggestions that the constitutional rights of four Jewish pro-Israel Brooklyn College students were violated when they were ejected – at the hands of Brooklyn College public safety officers and at the sole direction of a 20-something non-objective outsider whom BC had vested with its authority – from the event were initially rejected and ridiculed.

That is because initial reports, including those made by BC officials, blamed the behavior of the students as the justification for their expulsion.

However, the existence of an audiotape surreptitiously made at the event, which flatly contradicted the public position of BC and some media outlets, was revealed on Feb. 12.  The next day the Chancellor of the City University of New York announced  that there would be an investigation into the Feb. 7 event, headed by Brooklyn College’s own Chancellor for Legal Affairs Frederick P. Schaffer, and two partners from the law firm Bryan Cave LLP.

A 36-page, double-spaced Report of the Investigation was released on Friday, April 12 and was posted online sometime over that weekend.

The four problem areas addressed in the Investigation are: I. The Reservation and Admissions Process (addressed in the Report in pages 3 – 15); II. The Handling of the Press (Report, pp. 16 – 20); III. The Removal of the Students (Report, pp. 20 – 35); and IV. The Q & A Session (Report, pp. 34-35).

Rejecting the claims of constitutional violations, the Investigators instead found that the event was plagued by extreme disorganization, unwarranted reliance on students as decision makers, and flawed – though extensive, and presumably expensive – preparations.

In other words, the Investigators concluded that the problems were caused by benign negligence rather than malignant intent.

But the evidence adduced, the information available, and the justification for action described in initial reports that were later revealed as not just flawed but false and obviously so, puts that conclusion in question.

Even more troubling is that despite the sophistication of the legal experts responsible for the Investigation, they seem to have issued a flawed legal conclusion on the most important issue at stake.

The standard for judging whether constitutional rights can be abrogated is not, as the Investigators claimed in their Report, based on sincerity.

The standard for judging the permissibility of restrictions on constitutional rights is whether or not, at the very least, there is a reasonable belief that, in this case, 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.  Therefore, based on the evidence provided in the CUNY Report, it would appear that the constitutional rights of the four Jewish pro-Israel students were violated.

What follows are the details of the Investigation, focusing primarily on the ejection of four students during the event.

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The Investigators concluded no discrimination had taken place with respect to issues I. II and IV.

However, in addressing the third issue, that of removing the students, the Investigators concluded that while there “was no support for an inference of discrimination based on religion” (R.p. 33), they were not as confident that another form of discrimination had not taken place.

“A more plausible inference can be drawn that the removal of the four students was motivated by their political viewpoint,” the Investigators wrote. (R.p. 33) Making clear their understanding that political viewpoint discrimination was a relevant consideration, the Investigators noted that “Guzman [the decision maker] knew Goldberg [one of the Four] from a prior SJP event at which she had asked questions that challenged Palestinian positions.” (R.p. 33)

The constitutional prohibition on viewpoint discrimination means that the government (or government funded entities, such as Brooklyn College) cannot selectively silence viewpoints.  Brooklyn College, which is a state actor for purposes of this analysis, must make and enforce rules that are “viewpoint neutral.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/cuny-claim-of-no-constitutional-violations-at-bc-bds-event-flawed/2013/04/19/

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