Northeastern U. Duel Over Pro-Palestinian Group Mirrors Nationwide Fight

Was Administration Right To Punish Dorm 'Eviction' Notices?

Angry Voices: Students demand Northeastern University reinstate a pro-Palestinian student group that was suspended for slipping mock eviction notices under classmates’ dorm room doors.
Angry Voices: Students demand Northeastern University reinstate a pro-Palestinian student group that was suspended for slipping mock eviction notices under classmates’ dorm room doors.

By Cara Hogan

Published March 19, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Like Alan Dershowitz, his former teacher and Harvard Law School colleague, Boston attorney Harvey Silverglate is both a strong supporter of Israel and a passionate free speech advocate. So Silverglate had two reactions when Northeastern University unceremoniously suspended its campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.

“I actually think that the [SJP] students are right,” he told the Forward, referring to their contention that they had just been exercising their legitimate free speech rights. “I say that despite the fact that I have very strong feelings about the enormously disturbing criticism of Israel that has erupted all around the world, and most especially in academia.”

But according to Professor Dale Herbeck, chair of Northeastern’s Communications Department, the school was well within its rights when it sanctioned the student group for slipping mock “eviction” notices under the doors of student residents. The notices, clearly marked as fake, mimic the eviction orders the group says the Israeli government posts regularly on Palestinian homes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

“The First Amendment only protects you from the government infringing on free speech,” said Herbeck, an expert on freedom of expression and communication law. “But people lose these free speech claims all the time when you’re dealing with private entities….As a private university with a private campus, [NEU] has a right to limit who gets to speak in that space.”

The clash of these two free-speech experts encapsulates in a nutshell the larger clash that is mushrooming on campuses nationwide about the proper boundaries of protest when it comes to the issue of Israel and the Palestinians. That debate sharpened markedly in early March, thanks to SJP’s suspension at Boston-based Northeastern and a separate incident involving SJP at Barnard College in New York.

The Northeastern administration suspended its student SJP chapter on March 7, a few weeks after the group slipped their fake eviction notices under dorm room doors across the campus. The university said the notices alarmed and intimidated students.

On March 10, the administration at Barnard College, a liberal arts school closely affiliated with Columbia University, removed with no prior notice an SJP banner on the campus’ main building that it had previously approved. The banner, which read “Stand for Justice, Stand for Palestine,” came down after LionPAC, Columbia’s pro-Israel student organization, complained to the administration about it. The SJP banner showed a map of Israel and the occupied territories as one, undifferentiated entity. The Barnard administration later announced that no signs of a political nature could be posted henceforth by any group on the building.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.