The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) applauded the December 22, 2020 ruling by the New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, First Department, upholding Fordham University’s decision to reject the antisemitic, Israel-hating “Students for Justice in Palestine” (SJP) club at the University.
The ZOA filed an amicus brief with the court in support of Fordham’s position, documenting SJP’s long record of harassing and intimidating Jewish and pro-Israel students, promoting ugly anti-Israel lies, and shutting down Jewish and pro-Israel events and programs, in violation of students’ legal rights. The ZOA also showed that SJP’s conduct is not only anti-Israel but also antisemitic, based on the definition of antisemitism widely used by the U.S. government and many countries around the world, creating potential liability for colleges and universities under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.
The appellate ruling is the latest in a legal battle that began after Fordham’s 2016 rejection of an SJP club at the University. The student applicants for the club filed suit against Fordham in April 2017, seeking to annul the University’s decision and compel it to recognize an SJP chapter. The judge found in the students’ favor, concluding that Fordham’s decision was arbitrary and capricious.
Yesterday’s appellate ruling rejected the judge’s decision. The Appellate Division concluded that the original student petitioners supporting the SJP hate club had already graduated and their claims against Fordham were moot. The student who wished to be added as a petitioner was not a student at Fordham at the time the University rejected the SJP application and thus lacked standing to challenge Fordham’s decision.
Even if standing had existed, the Appellate Division concluded that Fordham followed its approval procedure and acted “in the exercise of its honest discretion.” Fordham’s conclusion that the proposed SJP club, “which would have been affiliated with a national organization reported to have engaged in disruptive and coercive actions on other campuses, would work against, rather than enhance, . . . [Fordham’s] commitment [to] open dialogue and mutual learning and understanding, was not ‘without sound basis in reason’ or ‘taken without regard to the facts.’”
Morton A. Klein, ZOA National President, and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., Director of the ZOA Center for Law and Justice, strongly praised the court’s ruling, as well as Fordham’s determination to keep SJP off the campus, stating: “We at the ZOA deeply appreciate that the court understood that Fordham’s decision to reject an antisemitic hate group like SJP was a sound and rational one, completely in keeping with Fordham’s commitment to maintaining a campus environment that is tolerant, respectful, and safe. We are also proud of Fordham for standing firm and sending the message to hate groups like SJP that antisemitic harassment and the promotion of anti-Israel lies will not be tolerated on its campus.
“Fordham’s leadership, and this court decision, set a promising and welcome precedent for other private colleges and universities. For the sake of the safety and well-being of their students and communities, colleges and universities must be able to reject divisive and antisemitic hate groups like SJP.”