After a two month investigation into the circumstances surrounding the expulsion of four Jewish students from a BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) event aimed at Israel at Brooklyn College in February, a report has been issued that states that a “plausible inference can be drawn that the removal of the four students was motivated by their political viewpoint.”
The event featured anti-Israel activists Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti, and gained considerable attention in the press when it was discovered that the school’s Political Science Department was a sponsor.
The report was originally commissioned by the school after conflicting accounts arose as to why the four students, Melanie Goldberg, Ari and Michael Ziegler and Yvonne Juris, had been removed from the event. The organizers, Students for Justice in Palestine, as well as the university itself, said that the students were being disruptive by handing out fliers and talking, and were removed on the recommendation of Carlos Guzman, a former student at Hunter College who was the SJP vice president at that school, but who did not attend Brooklyn College in any capacity. The Jewish students contended that the allegations were completely false. This contention gained further credence after an audiotape published by The Algemeiner reinforced the students’ claims.
The report, which was conducted by the firm of Bryan Cave LLP and involved interviews with more than 40 witnesses, concluded: “It is clear that there was no justification for the removal of the four students. They did not create a ‘disturbance.’ Even though the sound system was not working perfectly and Dr. Butler spoke in a soft voice, she could be heard clearly at all times. At most the students made some noise when they entered and got settled into their seats. Even then only a few people nearby heard them. Any subsequent noise would appear to have been the result of Guzman’s intervention. Nor were any of the four students wrong in refusing to hand over their papers.”
The report contradicted Guzman’s account of the students’ expulsion. For example, he stated that he asked Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Milga Morales, to speak to the students, which she did. Dr Morales, however, said that this never occurred. The report also criticized the handling of the school’s initial statements to the press, which claimed that the students had been disturbing the audience, noting that “the primary source of that statement was an email from Morales” and “it did not make clear that the four students were removed entirely on the word of Guzman and that Morales” and other staff “had not witnessed the alleged disturbance.”
The report also cited several issues with registration and press access, and concluded that the “Brooklyn College administration did not handle this event well.”