Dear President Gabel,
As a strong supporter of free speech and academic freedom on campus, and an opponent of all forms of discrimination, I am deeply concerned about the National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Conference being held at UMN in November, 2019. Because UMN is a public institution bound by the First Amendment to the Constitution and must uphold academic freedom, I understand that this concerning conference must be permitted to proceed. However, in upholding academic freedom I believe you and your administration also have a responsibility to explicitly condemn campus events that promote hatred, intolerance, and opposition to the free exchange of ideas.
As you may know, SJP has a long record of spreading hate, supporting violence, and violating the free speech rights of people they disagree with on campus. Last year's National SJP Conference explicitly promoted the destruction of Zionism, celebrated disruptions of speakers who support Israel's right to exist, and glorified terrorism against Israeli civilians. An individual with a history of blatant anti-Semitism has already announced that she will be speaking at this year's conference on your campus. This hate cannot go unanswered.
UMN's guiding principles call for a campus environment that "embodies the values of academic freedom," while providing, "an atmosphere of mutual respect, free from racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and intolerance".
As such, I urge you to:
- Strongly condemn the National SJP Conference for promoting hate, supporting violence, and encouraging violations of free speech and academic freedom. This recent statement from the Chancellor of UMASS Amherst is a good model:
- Develop and share concrete steps UMN will be taking to foster greater tolerance and protect the rights of all UMN students.
- Respond to rising efforts to isolate Jews, Israelis, and their supporters by celebrating and growing your cooperation with these communities and the organizations that represent them on campus.
Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.