Duke University

Don’t let Duke University discriminate against Students Supporting Israel.

Jewish students at Duke University have been stymied in their efforts to obtain recognition for a pro-Israel campus group.

They launched a Duke chapter of Students Supporting Israel and applied to the Duke Student Government (DSG) for recognition. SSI is an international campus movement with chapters at universities and colleges across the U.S. and Canada.

But in November, their request was vetoed by Student Government President Christina Wang.

Student government recognition allows campus groups to receive funding for their activities. At Duke, 350 recognized groups receive money from a $1 million fund supported by fees paid by the North Carolina institution’s 15,500 students. Active groups such as Duke Friends of Israel, Duke Israel Public Affairs Committee and Duke Students for Justice in Palestine already have such recognition.

Wang said she vetoed the request because a Duke SSI Instagram post inappropriately singled out an individual student in a way that she described as “potentially hostile or harmful.”

The Instagram post in question was responding to a student who claimed Duke SSI “promotes settler colonialism.” Duke SSI responded by saying, “please allow us to educate you” and invited the student to an event.” Wang has not indicated what was “potentially hostile or harmful” about that.

The DSG subsequently upheld Wang’s veto by a vote of 37-3 with 10 abstentions. According to the student newspaper, the Duke Chronicle, the Duke Student Government has not exercised a veto since 2016.

This week, the Louis Brandeis Center, a Washington D.C.-based civil rights watchdog, got involved. In a letter to Duke President Vincent Price, the Brandeis Center said Duke SSI was “subjected to special scrutiny that other groups did not have to endure,” and that the veto was based on nothing more than a “rather anodyne” social media post. The center also pointed out that Duke SSI’s Instagram post was protected free speech that could not serve as a basis for Wang’s veto.

Duke’s administration was “legally obligated to take corrective action” and “provide public assurances that Duke SSI will have equal access to the same benefits and resources that are available to other recognized student organizations,” the Brandeis letter said.

“A university violates Title VI when its student government rejects a Jewish student organization’s request for recognition based on standards that are not applied to non-Jewish groups,” the letter added.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity that receives federal funds or financial assistance.

Notify President Vincent Price that Duke SSI must be recognized!

Contact President Vincent Price: president@duke.edu