(August 12, 2021, JNS Wire) (Los Angeles, CA) – StandWithUs initiated a national campaign by sending a letter to nearly 3,000 university leaders encouraging university leaders to put a stop to the now-common practice of academic departments and student governments employing official university websites, social media accounts, and email listservs to promote extremist political causes such as BDS campaigns. The exploitation of official university assets for political activism violates professional codes of conduct and pre-existing ethics policies at most universities—policies that are rarely enforced. StandWithUs called on university presidents and general counsels to issue guidance to all faculty and students reminding them of these policies and announcing penalties for their violation. Such violations were commonplace during the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas in May 2021, when countless academic departments and student governments took over official university social media accounts and email lists and used them to promote hatred of Israel and in many cases, antisemitism.
StandWithUs’ legal letter details the numerous university policies and professional codes of conduct that this behavior violates, and the way that official promotion of extremist anti-Israel and antisemitic content marginalizes students based on their Jewish identity and/or Israeli citizenship.
Based on months of legal research and assistance from lawyers in StandWithUs’ pro bono attorney network, the letter includes suggested language that universities can adopt immediately to curtail further abuse by faculty, academic departments, and student governments as the fall 2021 semester gets underway.
StandWithUs’ letter also clarifies that barring campus political activists—be they students, professors, or administrators—from using official university channels to disseminate inflammatory, partisan, or hateful messages in no way runs afoul of First Amendment rights or the principles of academic freedom.
“StandWithUs receives hundreds of requests from alumni, students, and parents asking if a particular university is a welcoming place for Jewish and Israeli students, where they can study and enjoy campus life without being subjected to constant attacks on their identity – ones that increasingly appear to carry the endorsement of schools themselves. University leaders should make clear to these alumni, students, and parents whether their campuses will implement the crucial guidelines we recommend,” said Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs.
Yael Lerman, Director of the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department stated, “StandWithUs calls on universities to stop the exploitation of official communication vehicles for anti-Israel activism and enforce codes of conduct and ethics policies.”