BU students removed from ‘public’ Hillel event, demand transparency, change
A number of Boston University students released four demands last Friday protesting their removal from a BU Hillel event in January, which had been advertised as a public event for students.
The demands consist of a public apology from BU administrators and Hillel staff, cultural sensitivity training for Hillel staff, the release of all records of a financial or political connection between the university administration and Hillel and the opening of Hillel for all BU-wide events.
These demands are related to the January 28 incident, in which several students arrived at a Hillel event called “All Students, All Israel,” which had been advertised as open to all BU students, and were almost immediately asked to leave, according to students.
The law enforcement officer, who was allegedly acting on the request of the BU Hillel staff, told the students that they were not part of an “inner circle.” Multiple officers as well as a university dean spoke to the students, but none offered an explanation as to why they were being asked to leave. The students said it is a clear case of discrimination based on racial background or political viewpoint.
As is clear from their demands, the students are especially concerned with the status of BU Hillel as a “private” institution with the right to remove visitors. The Hillel building is owned by the university and the only faculty dining hall on campus is at BU Hillel.
If it is in fact a BU-funded facility, the organizers of the event would have had no right to remove the students.
“Hillel’s racial profiling of these students — and BU’s aiding in their removal from a campus event — raises legal red flags,” said Radhika Sainath, a staff attorney at Palestine Legal. “If left unaddressed, BU could be in violation of Title VI of the the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin from universities that receive federal funding.”
Marlo Kalb, one of the students who was removed, said this is much more than an isolated incident.
“There has been, on this campus, so much tension between Palestinian students and students with pro-Palestine views and Hillel. And Hillel has a lot of power on this campus… for me, this is the tip of the iceberg,” Kalb said.
Following the release of the demands, backlash has come from the student body as well as Hillel itself. The director of BU Hillel, David Raphael, published a letter in the student newspaper, claiming that the actions of an aggressive visitor were deliberately edited out of the video of the event to reflect more positively on the students.
Kalb said that although the video was edited for privacy reasons, all of them had been asked to leave well before that incident took place.
Pro-Israel student on campus have reacted strongly to the demands for transparency and inclusiveness.
When the President of BU Student Government, Andrew Cho, called the incident “a grievance for our entire community” in a Senate address, a Hillel senator named Andrew Hochberg interrupted his speech to criticize his opinion and defend Hillel’s actions.
The students who released the demands have been harassed online.
“People on this campus feel very threatened by me as an anti-Zionist Jewish woman…. I’ve been harassed a lot in these past few days. I was told that if I was in Israel right now my friends would kill me,” Kalb said.
All of the students removed from the event have been the target of similar harassment, she added.
Facebook posts regarding the incident have been inexplicably taken down, leading students to believe there is a concerted effort to suppress information surrounding the event.
A meeting between the students and the administration regarding a possible internal investigation is scheduled for March 24. Kalb expressed frustration that the university administration has, thus far, refused to address students’ issues with Hillel in any meaningful way.
BU Hillel did not respond to a request for comment.