A civil rights organization is telling Duke University they are “legally obligated” to grant a pro-Israel student organization official recognition on campus.
During the Nov. 10 Duke Student Government senate meeting, the proposed Students Supporting Israel chapter was granted official recognition. However, when legislation approving the pro-Israel organization went to student government President Christina Wang, she vetoed it.
In a statement to Duke Student Government senators obtained by the Duke Chronicle on Nov. 15, Wang said that she decided not to allow Students Supporting Israel to become an official recognized student organization because of a social media post responding to criticism from another student.
Wang claimed that Students Supporting Israel “singled out an individual student on their organization’s social media account in a way that was unacceptable for any student group and appeared antithetical to the group’s stated mission to be welcoming and inclusive to all Duke students, and educational in mission and purpose,” according to the article.
In a letter to Duke University, the Louis D. Brandeis Center is obligated to grant Students Supporting Israel official recognition as a student organization on campus.
The civil rights organization said they “appreciate” Duke University’s effort to address the situation in a recent statement, but says it’s not enough.
“While we appreciate your efforts to address the matter in your recent statement, it is not sufficient under the law merely to provide ‘options to secure financial and programmatic support’ without formal recognition,” the letter states.
Alyza Lewin, president of the Brandeis Center and Denise Katz-Prober, director of legal Initiatives, recalled a similar situation at Williams College where a student government refused to recognize a pro-Israel organization. In that case, a federal complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
The college eventually resolved the complaint by formally recognizing the pro-Israel student organization and guaranteeing them access to resources.
“Following this example, Duke should formally recognize Duke SSI and provide public assurances that Duke SSI will have equal access to the same benefits and resources that are available to other recognized student organizations,” the letter states.
Lewin told Fox News that Duke University should overturn the decision made by the student government, noting that they have made a promise to students that their freedom of speech would be protected.
“If they have policies regarding freedom of speech and the protection of free expression, if they are statements that are made by the administrators about how they will protect the free speech of their students, those policies and those statements are treated as creating a contractual obligation by the university to actually live up to those promises right and protect the speech of the students and of the community. And students and the community rely on those promises,” Lewin said.