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Statement Regarding Press Coverage of Recent Pro-Palestinian Demonstration on Campus

March 3, 2009

On February 6, members of the University of Rochester Students for a Democratic Society held a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Goergen Hall. Some of the press coverage of that event, including a Wall Street Journal column and a Jewish Week story, has been inaccurate. The University was not contacted for either piece, so I want to set the record straight.

The student group reserved space in the atrium for the event, and followed University guidelines for demonstrations. They expressed their opinions about the situation in Gaza. They departed peacefully and without incident when the building closed.

The students presented four demands, which they discussed with College Dean of Students Matt Burns. The University did not "capitulate," as the Wall Street Journal column inaccurately claimed, but took the following actions:

  • We agreed to forward their request for divestment in certain corporations to the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees, as is standard procedure for such requests.
  • The University declined to contribute to the Palestinians in Gaza. We explained that, as a charitable organization, the University cannot directly aid a political, religious or charitable cause, such as the Islamic University of Gaza.
  • We said that we would provide UR-SDS the same fundraising advice that we provide to any other registered student organization.
  • We declined to set aside scholarships for students from Gaza. We explained that federal law does not permit the University to set aside scholarships for any ethnic or religious group. We told the students that scholarships are available for international students who are prepared and qualified to attend.

The University of Rochester generally does not endorse political causes or candidates. Members of the University community, however, are welcome to express their ideas freely, so long as they comply with applicable University regulations and are respectful of the rights of others to air their views.

Joel Seligman
University of Rochester