05 Jun Boston University Students of Color Discriminated Against at Campus
On January 28th, 2016, at approximately 7 pm, seven Boston University students attended an event called “All Students, All Israel Think Tank,” hosted by Boston University Hillel and Israel Campus Roundtable and advertised as open to all students. Upon arrival, we checked in with organizers and sat down at a table in the event room. We were then immediately approached by an armed Boston University police officer who informed us that BU Hillel organizers told her that we were not part of an undefined “inner circle,” that we were not welcome at the event, and that we had to leave. Our group was almost entirely comprised of students of Middle Eastern, South Asian and East Asian origins, and appeared to be the only group of students of color at the event.
At this point, we began video recording the exchange we had with the armed police officers and an event organizer. When we asked the officer for additional clarification as to why we were being ejected, the officer refused to clarify. After we pressed for answers, we were told no explanation was needed since, according to one of the police officers, the event was considered private. The officer later retracted her claim, explaining she was not the right person to offer clarification. Shortly after, we were approached by one of the event organizers who told us that we were being removed from the event because the organizers deemed all of us as disruptive prior to the event start.
Another BU student, Ibraheem Samirah, arrived to attend the event a little later than the rest of us. While greeting the rest of our group, Ibraheem was immediately approached by the police officer who informed him that he also would not be allowed to attend the event, and told him that he was considered disruptive. Ibraheem, a Palestinian American known for his commitment to open dialogue, then emphasized that he had RSVP’d in advance and that he was registered to attend. The officer said he was grouping us all together, including Ibraheem, and that we were all not welcome as a group. The officer then asserted that we would be subject to arrest on the basis of “trespassing…from [a] lawful perspective,” if we did not leave.
The university is yet to inform us why we were asked to leave the event, or respond to requests for a public apology and an affirmation that BU students of color, and students supporting Palestinian human rights are allowed to attend educational events on campus just like any other student at this institution. Furthermore, one of the BU students of color who was told to leave, Angela, said on the matter that she’s “outraged by these blatant acts of racial and religious profiling that have yet to be met with any sort of recourse.” “The whole incident was so humiliating for all of us and although BU Hillel’s mission statement says they welcome all students, this proves that certain students are not welcome,” said Marlo Kalb, BU Class of 2016.
We believe our expulsion from the event was due to discrimination against our racial backgrounds and affiliation with Palestinian human rights advocacy, directly in violation of Boston University’s policies on anti-discrimination and freedom of expression. Public events on campus are required be open to all students. Unfortunately, this is not the first time students have faced such discrimination for their background or viewpoint. According to a report by Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights, there is widespread and growing suppression of students and scholars who support Palestinian freedom.
Furthermore, the Boston University Code of Ethical Conduct states that all trustees, officers, and employees of the university must obey the law “both in letter and in spirit.. “Hillel’s racial profiling of these students — and BU’s aiding in their removal from a campus event — raises legal red flags,” said Radhika Sainath, a staff attorney at Palestine Legal. “If left unaddressed, BU could be in violation of Title VI of the the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin from universities that receive federal funding.”
Given the university’s lack of response regarding discriminatory policy violations, we demand the following:
-A public apology from Boston University Hillel, President Brown, Dean Elmore and Assistant Dean Battaglino and a public condemnation of the discrimination that took place at the event “All Students All Israel Think Tank.”
-Training for Boston University Hillel staff on cultural sensitivity to make Hillel a safe space for all students.
-Releasing any information pertaining to the relationship between Hillel International, Boston University Hillel, and Boston University, be it financial or political, to the public.
-Opening of Boston University Hillel spaces for all Boston University-wide functions.