By Aaron Bandler
(JANUARY 13, 2022 / JEWISH JOURNAL) Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) called on Duke University to “reevaluate” the student government’s decision to deny recognition of the Students Supporting Israel (SSI) chapter.
In November, Duke Student Government (DSG) President Christina Wang vetoed recognition of the SSI chapter after their social media accounts called out a student for tweeting that recognizing the chapter meant that the university “promotes settler colonialism.” The DSG failed to reach the two-thirds threshold to overturn Wang’s veto. In response, the university said that the DSG’s decision is “independent” of the university and Duke SSI has alternative ways of obtaining financial and program support from the university.
Paul, who obtained his medical degree at Duke, wrote in the January 10 letter that SSI Duke “met all the appropriate recognition criteria” and the DSG’s actions were “arbitrary and biased.” “Denying a student group recognition based on personal or political differences weakens the legitimacy of any academic institution,” he wrote. “More voices, more viewpoints, and more debate will always be beneficial to the student body.”
The Kentucky senator concluded his letter by stating that it’s “paramount” for Duke to uphold an “objective” process for recognizing student clubs on campus. “It is my hope that Duke reevaluates the decision, and Students Supporting Israel are given full recognition as a student organization.”
The national SSI organization tweeted their thanks to Paul. “SSI at Duke was denied recognition in a bias and discriminatory process and it has been 3 months already and we are still not a registered club on campus,” they wrote.
Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein praised Paul’s letter as being “powerful and principled.” “As the ZOA made clear in a December 14, 2021 letter to Duke President Vincent Price, DSG’s decision violated Duke’s own policies and unfairly singled out, penalized, and discriminated against a pro-Israel group, while ignoring the truly harmful and hostile conduct of another recognized student group at Duke—the antisemitic and anti-Israel ‘Students for Justice in Palestine,’” Klein said in a statement. “Yet to date, Duke has failed to override the DSG’s wrongful and bigoted decision and grant SSI the official recognition it seeks and deserves.” The letter argued that the university was obligated under its December 2019 Resolution Agreement with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights in addressing antisemitism on campus to ensure that SSI Duke receives recognition. The Louis D. Brandeis Center sent a similar letter in December as well.
The university did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.
This article was originally published in the Jewish Journal and can be viewed here.