Student Activism on Campus: The Future of SJP, JSO and OneVoice

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Student Activism on Campus: The Future of SJP, JSO and OneVoice

The Dome of the Rock, which is a religious site in all Judeo-Christian religions, is often used as a symbol for peace in the Middle East.

The Dome of the Rock, which is a religious site in all Judeo-Christian religions, is often used as a symbol for peace in the Middle East.

NIGHTFLIGHTTOVENUS VIA FLICKR

The Dome of the Rock, which is a religious site in all Judeo-Christian religions, is often used as a symbol for peace in the Middle East.

NIGHTFLIGHTTOVENUS VIA FLICKR

NIGHTFLIGHTTOVENUS VIA FLICKR

The Dome of the Rock, which is a religious site in all Judeo-Christian religions, is often used as a symbol for peace in the Middle East.

By JOE KOTTKE, Contributing Writer

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Student activism at Fordham Lincoln Center is known to garner controversy. Between the Students for Sex and Gender Equality and Safety (SAGES) operating underground to avoid disciplinary action, to the public battle that ensued over Fordham’s first student drag show. However, few topics have caused as much controversy as the student voices surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on campus.  

The kickoff of the 2019-2020 academic year was marked by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) winning an historic lawsuit on Aug. 5, 2019, granting them a legal right to club status. Yet as SJP coordinates its plans for the academic year, other advocacy groups with an opinion on the conflict are also setting things in motion.

On Aug. 29, Fordham Lincoln Center hosted its annual club day. SJP filled up four pages of student inquiries; “It’s awesome to see so many people excited about the club,” said Veer Shetty, Fordham College Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’21, SJP vice president. 

“We feel amazing. We finally have a voice on campus to share our anti-war, anti-imperialist views, which Fordham has never really had,” Shetty added.

In addition to SJP, another initiative for a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict called OneVoice, with chapters at New York University, Columbia University and Yale University, is in the process of opening a chapter at Fordham Lincoln Center.

“Ariel Arad brought OneVoice to campus last year,” said Jewish Student Organization (JSO) Secretary and intended Co-Founder of OneVoice, Emma Kossoy, FCLC ’22. Arad is a student at FCLC and will graduate in December 2019. When OneVoice brought speakers to campus last year, “people from both Palestine and Israel talked about growing up in the war. Ariel and I decided we wanted to create a chapter on campus,” said Kossoy. 

According to Kossoy, they started the process of filing for club status before they learned SJP had been approved.

OneVoice is currently in deliberations with the Office of Student Involvement. “The process for becoming an approved club on campus is long, but is taking even longer for us since we would be a chapter of a national organization,” said Kossoy. “We are making a lot of progress and are really excited to get approved.”

Shetty and Cohen had never heard of OneVoice, nor did they know a chapter was in the process of being formed at Fordham Lincoln Center. “We both had to Google it; we’ve never heard of it,” said Shetty. 

After fighting to become an official club for the last four years, SJP’s leadership raised questions about OneVoice’s status. “Given Fordham’s decision on SJP’s status as an official group — labeled as a polarizing group — I would have to believe that OneVoice on campus would also be polarizing,” said Cohen. “If concerns about SJP are the issues we’re discussing, it would make no difference who’s talking about them.”

While OneVoice works to become a legitimate club, SJP is excited to start hosting guest speakers, reading groups and events to raise awareness about their cause.  

“It’s an issue that most people don’t know enough about, especially to the point of feeling unqualified to have an opinion,” said the secretary of SJP Margaret Cohen, FCLC ’20. “SJP is a way to empower people with information. We’re not here to tell you what to believe.” Cohen had also served on the E-Board for JSO in the past, but left and helped develop SJP over the last few years.

Meanwhile, Kossoy and Arad hope that OneVoice will function as a political space where people can talk about complicated issues in an uncharged setting.

“We need to have a space to sit and talk about the conflict to find that common ground,” said Kossoy. “This is what OneVoice is all about. There may be different sides, but there’s so much that can be gained from peace.”

Even with similar goals, Cohen confirmed that “SJP would not work as a function of OneVoice at any point. SJP will be SJP — that’s what we fought for these past four years.” 

According to Kossoy, JSO is a religious organization and not affiliated with a singular political ideology. JSO leadership intends to work with SJP more, especially as many on-campus organizations have worked together to create multi-club events this semester.

“People from JSO have approached us with the intent to collaborate, which we’re super excited about,” said Cohen.