Past Student Protests Prompt New Demonstration Policies

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The handbook listed scenarios that indicate students have failed to fulfill certain responsibilities, namely the one that “create[s] a volume of noise that prevents members of the University from carrying on their normal activities,” as well as “employ force or violence, or constitute an immediate threat of force or violence.” (COLIN SHEELEY/THE OBSERVER)

By RUBY GARA

2024
SJP Organized Gaza Solidarity Encampment and 11 Students are Arrested
SJP Organized Gaza Solidarity Encampment and 11 Students are Arrested

May 1, 2024 - SJP began a Gaza solidarity encampment inside the lobby of the Leon Lowenstein Center. Fordham Public Safety requested assistance from the New York Police Department to clear the encampment. According to Howe, 15 individuals were arrested for misdemeanor trespassing, including 11 current students and four alumni.…
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SJP’s ‘Divestment and Disclosure’ Rally Drew Hundreds
SJP’s ‘Divestment and Disclosure’ Rally Drew Hundreds

April 27, 2024 - SJP listed four demands in a petition for the university to “Support Palestinian Rights and Divest from Israeli Apartheid.” They urged the university to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, increase financial transparency, divest from companies tied to the war in Gaza, and cut ties…
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2023
Tetlow Affirms Eldredge’s Decision in Student Press Conference
Tetlow Affirms Eldredge’s Decision in Student Press Conference

Nov. 27, 2023 - University President Tania Tetlow stated in a press conference with The Observer and The Ram that the administration will not recognize SJP as a club so long as it remains in association with the national SJP affiliate. Read the Observer’s full coverage of the press conference…
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2021
The Court Denied SJP’s Appeal

May 4, 2021 - New York Court of Appeals denied the students' motion to appeal, drawing the legal battle to a close.

SJP Responded with An Appeal to the Appellate Division’s Ruling

Jan. 21, 2021 - SJP appealed the ruling which reinstated Fordham’s ability to bar SJP from operating as a university-sanctioned club.

2020
SJP Stripped of Club Status

Dec. 22, 2020 - The appellate division reversed Justice Banon’s 2019 decision, citing how SJP would have been “affiliated with a national organization reported to have engaged in disruptive and coercive actions on other campuses,” which “would work against, rather than enhance” Fordham’s commitment to open dialogue and mutual learning.…
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SJP Faced Fordham in Court Once Again

Nov. 24, 2020 - Oral arguments were heard in the appellate division of the New York State Supreme Court on Nov. 24, continuing its five-year effort to gain official recognition as a campus club. Read the Observer’s full coverage here.

Fordham Faculty Signed Petition in Support of SJP
Fordham Faculty Signed Petition in Support of SJP

Jan. 30, 2020 - A petition denounced Fordham’s continued efforts against SJP in court. 120 Fordham faculty members signed a petition, which was sent to senior administration officials. The petition demanded that Fordham drop its appeal against the New York State Supreme Court that ruled for SJP’s presence on campus…
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Fordham Responded With an Appeal

Fordham filed an appeal of Justice Bannon’s decision. Howe commented that “Fordham University is committed to serving all of its students both in and out of the classroom: the University does not believe that a chapter of SJP is in the best interests of its students, and has appealed the…
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2019
Fordham Said It Would Review Court Decision

August 8, 2019 - Bob Howe, assistant vice president for communications, said “the University is reviewing the court’s decision before deciding on a way forward,” in an official university statement. The University did not offer a time frame or how it planned to implement the ruling.

Fordham University has made alterations to the Student Handbook’s demonstration policies following the controversy surrounding school administration and a student group seeking official club status.

The Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) had completed a year-long process in order to gain official club status on campus before consequently being barred by the Dean of Students, Keith Eldredge, in Dec. 2016. The policies were changed as a consequence of the several protests led on campus by members of SJP, as well as other Fordham students.

The newest edition of the Student Handbook, written for the academic year of 2017-18, was published shortly after the four students filed suit against the University, as the hearing was held in early January. However, both handbooks share a strikingly similar perspective in regards to student-led demonstrations on campus.

The only significant change that has been made to the Student Handbook concerning the demonstration policy is an extension of the Procedures for Responding to Obstructive or Disruptive Demonstrations clause.

The Student Handbook consists of “standards of conduct” and university regulations that are routinely modified and updated, as they “are integral to the development of each student” in Fordham’s international community. The handbook essentially outlines the expectations for students’ conduct, whether it is related to academics or non-academic matters.

The handbook listed scenarios that indicate students have failed to fulfill certain responsibilities, namely the one that “create[s] a volume of noise that prevents members of the University from carrying on their normal activities,” as well as “employ force or violence, or constitute an immediate threat of force or violence.”

In relation to SJP, one of the claims that reinforces the dismissal of the formation of their group, was that a student organization of such nature would make others on campus feel uncomfortable, and that it could be a fundamental source of distraction.

However, some policies remained unchanged in both handbooks, namely the policy on dissent, which refers to a student’s strong difference in opinion. Both state that “to insure that freedom is maintained [on campus], expressions of assent or dissent cannot be permitted to infringe on the rights of the members of the University community or the community itself.” The policy also states that “each member of the University has a right to freely express his or her positions and to work for their acceptance whether he/she assents to or dissents from existing situations in the University or society.”

The Student Handbook of 2016-17 had five procedural steps for different instances; the updated version has added 2 points of clarification to the policy as the steps “are generally followed in instances in which a protest that has been coordinated/approved through this Demonstration Policy deviates from the Policy based on the judgment of the Department of Public Safety and/or the Dean of Students.”

The five main points outline how the Dean of Students, as well as the Dean of the college, partake on handling demonstrations that are deemed to be  “disrupting the normal process of the area in question.” Public Safety also plays a key role as they are the ones that should be contacted if “physical violence, unauthorized entry, disruption of normal business and/or academic activities, and/or destruction of property” occurs during a coordinated and approved demonstration.

If the demonstrators on campus ignore the warnings issued by the Dean stating to cease any disruptive activity, the President and/or Senior Vice President for Student Affairs or Associate Vice President of Student Affairs “will recommend that the New York City Police be summoned and that they be requested to arrest violators and clear the area.”

The last point in the Demonstration policy states that “Demonstrations/protests that have not been coordinated with/approved by the University through the process described in this policy are not permitted and may be ended without following steps 1-5. Organizing individuals and groups as well as participants may be subject to response through the Student Conduct Process.”

Although only minor changes have been made to the handbook, its updated version shows the impact student-led protests can have on a University, and paves the way for change on campus.