The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer


Students for Justice in Palestine at Fordham: An Interactive Timeline

UPDATE: This timeline is an updated version of the one created by Sophie Partridge-Hicks published on August 29, 2019. The software previously used is outdated and is no longer compatible with WordPress. Information on this timeline draws from the earlier version, a graphic made by Insiya Gandhi, and other Observer coverage. 

Students Filed for Club Status

Nov. 19, 2015 – Fordham students interested in raising awareness about Palestinian rights submitted an application to create a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) club on Fordham’s campus. SJP’s proposed mission was “to build support in the Fordham community among people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds for the promotion of justice, human rights, liberation, and self-determination for the indigenous Palestinian people.”

Students Submitted an Inquiry to Office of Student Involvement

April 6, 2016 – The students awaited a decision from Fordham’s administration about their application for club status. Ahmad Awad, who hoped to be president of the club, emailed Dr. Dorothy Wenzel, saying “We’ve effectively missed a whole semester of being involved on campus, and would appreciate approval soon so we can begin hosting meetings for fellow Fordham students who are interested to learn about what SJP is. We are very motivated to make this club happen. It is an issue very dear to our hearts, especially as I, Ahmad, am Palestinian myself.”

Students Asked to Meet with Administration

April 26, 2016 – Dr. Wenzel and Amanda Ritchie, then-vice president of operations for the United Student Government (USG), met with students to ask that SJP make some small changes to their constitution regarding election of officers and membership requirements. They also asked if National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) required anything from SJP.Fordham students provided an email confirming that NSJP is independent from campus SJP clubs.  


Students Submitted Another Inquiry to Office of Student Involvement

Sept. 7, 2016 -The SJP students sent another email to the Office of Student Involvement and USG about their club’s status and the possibility of advertising themselves during Club Day on Sept. 22, 2016. They reiterated their organization’s independence from NSJP. Kayla Wolf, the vice president of operations for USG, responded a few days later, informing the students that the filing was still in review.

Administration Expressed Concern About SJP

Oct. 5, 2016 – Three SJP students met with Dean Eldredge, Dr. Wenzel and Wolf. At the meeting, Dr. Wenzel and Dean Eldredge expressed concern that SJP’s presence would “stir up controversy.” They also asked about the club’s support for boycotts, divestment and sanctions as well as questioned SJP’s choice of name. Dr. Wenzel also said that she spoke to several Jewish faculty members about SJP in the previous academic year, and requested their opinion on whether SJP should be established at Fordham.

SJP Students Met With USG Operations Committee

Oct. 27, 2016 – Wolf and the USG Operations committee reviewed SJP’s constitution, and Wolf confirmed that USG will vote on SJP’s application in November. SJP students noted that this is not the format described in Club Registration Process Document, which states that after the Operations Committee reviews a club’s constitution it should be sent to Dr. Wenzel and Dean Eldredge, and not USG. When asked why they were going against Fordham policy, Wolf explained that Dr. Wenzel gave her permission in this instance. Wolf also informed SJP that Dr. Wenzel wanted Fordham’s Jewish Student Organization (JSO) to have a platform to express their opinions regarding SJP.

SJP Students Invited To Speak At USG

Nov. 13, 2016 – Wolf emailed SJP students asking them to speak at a USG meeting, “so the Senate can hear about Students for Justice in Palestine” and “why the club is important.”

SJP Raised Concerns About JSO’s Involvement

Nov. 16, 2016 – After hearing that JSO would be speaking to the Senate, Ahmad Awad and another SJP student emailed Wolf. “We are still confused as to why JSO is being asked to speak to the Senate, especially since USG has already spoken with JSO,” they wrote. “We feel it is unfair that another club at Fordham has been asked to come speak on our behalf in order to impact the vote.”

SJP Won USG Vote

Nov. 17, 2016 – After a year-long application process, USG granted SJP full club rights and status. The USG Executive Board and Senate emailed SJP stating that “After careful deliberation, United Student Government has faith that this chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine at Fordham and its members will positively contribute to the Fordham community in such a way that is sensitive to all students on campus.”

Dean Eldredge Overruled USG Vote and Banned SJP
Dean Eldredge Overruled USG Vote and Banned SJP

Dec. 22, 2016 – On the last day of the semester, Dean Eldredge emailed SJP students with his decision to overrule USG’s vote for club status. He wrote, “After consultation with numerous faculty, staff and students and my own deliberation, I have decided to deny the request to form a club known as Students for Justice in Palestine at Fordham University. While students are encouraged to promote diverse political points of view, and we encourage conversation and debate on all topics, I cannot support an organization whose sole purpose is advocating political goals of a specific group, and against a specific country, when these goals clearly conflict with and run contrary to the mission and values of the University.” This was the first time a dean has overruled a USG vote. Read the Observer’s full coverage here

Fordham Faced Scrutiny About Free Speech on Campus

Jan. 17, 2017 – The Center for Constitutional Rights, Palestine Legal and The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) all sent letters to Fordham with their concerns about free speech rights on Fordham’s campus. FIRE listed Fordham University as one of the 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech in 2017. Read the Observer’s full coverage here.

Students Protested SJP Ban
Students Protested SJP Ban

Jan. 23, 2017 – A member of SJP, Sapphira Lurie, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’17, organized a protest in support of SJP on the Lincoln Center campus. All on-campus demonstrations are required to be approved by the Dean of Students. Although Lurie said that Dean Eldredge was aware of the protest, he claimed it was unsanctioned. Fordham scheduled a disciplinary hearing for Lurie on Feb. 22, 2017. Read the Observer’s full coverage here.

121 Faculty Members Showed Support For SJP
121 Faculty Members Showed Support For SJP

Feb. 21, 2017 – Faculty members wrote an open letter expressing their concerns about a lack of free speech and academic freedom on campus. The letter insisted that the charges be dropped against Lurie, that SJP be allowed to proceed, that a new demonstration policy be instituted immediately, and that the Student Conduct Disciplinary process be immediately reviewed and revised. There was eventually a closed-door hearing held to discuss Lurie’s disciplinary charges. Dean Eldredge notified Lurie that she would not be allowed to have representation in her hearing. Lurie left her hearing in protest and was sanctioned with an official warning as a result.

SJP Students Filed a Lawsuit Against Fordham University
SJP Students Filed a Lawsuit Against Fordham University

April 26, 2017 – Four SJP students, Ahmad Awad, FCLC ’17, Sofia Dadap, FCLC ’18, Sapphira Lurie, FCLC ’17, and Julie Norris, FCLC ’19 filed a lawsuit, suing Fordham over their decision to reject SJP’s club status. Read the Observer’s full coverage here.

Alumni Showed Support for SJP

May 3, 2017 – Fordham alumni wrote an open letter to Fordham administration condemning their decision. “We believe that by denying organizational status to Students for Justice in Palestine after the group was approved by the Fordham United Student Government (USG), then by singling out one student protesting this decision for disciplinary action, you contribute to the systemic silencing and punishing students who choose to exercise their free speech to organize in support for the struggle for justice in Palestine,” they wrote.

The Legal Battle Began
The Legal Battle Began

June 5, 2017 – Fordham filed a motion to dismiss the case. The students opposed and filed a brief opposing Fordham’s attempt to dismiss the case. Read the Observer’s full coverage here.

SJP Students Sought Emergency Relief

Nov. 2, 2017 – Fordham students file for a preliminary injunction that called on Fordham to reinstate USG’s approval of the club as soon as possible as only two petitioners still attended Fordham. “Fordham’s policies acknowledge that participation in student clubs is a fundamental aspect of campus life. Petitioners Awad and Lurie were already denied this opportunity, which they will never be able to retrieve. Every day that SJP continues to be denied recognition, Petitioners Dadap and Norris are being deprived of one of the important experiences to which they are entitled as Fordham students.”

Community Showed Up For SJP At Public Hearing

Jan. 3, 2018 – A public hearing is held at the Manhattan Civil Courthouse on the students’ preliminary injunction and Fordham’s motion to dismiss. Community members and supporters of SJP overwhelmed the courthouse.

Sophomore Petitioned to Join Legal Battle
Sophomore Petitioned to Join Legal Battle

Feb. 8, 2019 – With only one of the four original plaintiffs still at Fordham, the SJP students filed a motion to add a new petitioner, Veer Shetty, FCLC ’21 to the case. Read the Observer’s full coverage here.

Fordham Opposed

March 4, 2019 – Fordham filed a motion opposing adding a new petitioner to the case. Dadap claimed that this decision was “maybe because they hope that after all four original petitioners graduate, student solidarity with colonized and oppressed peoples will die down.”

Justice Nancy Bannon Annulled Dean Eldredge’s Decision Mandating Fordham’s Recognition of SJP as an Official Club

August 5, 2019 – In a historic victory, Awad, et al. v. Fordham University was the first lawsuit in the country that challenged censorship of students advocating for Palestinian rights. Read the Observer’s full coverage on Justice Bannon’s decision here.

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 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 case.” Read the Observer’s full coverage of the appeal 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 in August 2019. Read the Observer’s full coverage of the petition here.

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.

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. Prior to this ruling, SJP had been functioning as a campus club for three semesters. Read the Observer’s full coverage on this decision here.

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.

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.

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 here.

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 with the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University. Read the Observer’s full coverage on the rally here

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. Read the Observer’s full coverage on the encampment and subsequent arrests.

This timeline was created by the current Online Editor Megan Yerrabelli and former Podcast Host Morgan Johnson. 


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