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!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • 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.