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GWU to Punish Palestinian Students Over Lawful Posters
It's Already Under Investigation For Earlier Illegal Discrimination
This is just another example of how my university has repeatedly violated the free speech rights it guarantees to students in a binding legal agreement, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who cites recent examples where victims included another Palestinian student, Chinese students who likely would face retaliation by China if their identities were disclosed, and students wishing to display an ancient symbol sacred to four different Asian religions.
At hearings on Friday, Students for Justice in Palestine [SJP] and its president will face charges that they violated the school's policy against property destruction by putting up posters critical of Israel and Zionism around campus.
However, SJP maintains that it "followed all the rules around postering and directed their members and allies to do the same."
And Banzhaf notes the numerous posters for all manner of events and causes can be found throughout his campus, Indeed, the district's municipal code not only permits non-commercial posters to be placed on public property, but even allows them to remain there for up to 180 days.
Prof Banzhaf suggests that, even in the unlikely event that there is no punishment, forcing students to face intrusive investigations, and to defend themselves for engaging in lawfully putting up posters, chills the freedom of speech and expression GWU has guaranteed to protect.
In an even earlier incident, GWU apparently violated the rights of another Palestinian student when it ordered him - after receiving complaints from a few other students - not to display the Palestinian flag.
More recently, GWU was forced to retreat and apologize when it sought to investigate and discipline students, apparently Chinese, who had put up posters protesting China's human rights record; even though such an investigation could put the students and even their family members at considerable risk of retaliation from the Chinese government.
Earlier, GWU had suspended and was about to expel a student for briefly displaying an ancient religious symbol which momentarily offended another student, and effectively banned any displays of a symbol sacred to four major religions.
Professor Banzhaf managed to halt the expulsion - although, by then, most of the damage had already occurred - by organizing threats of a law suits based upon religious discrimination, and encouraging world-wide condemnation of GWU's actions, and even a campaign to slash donations to the university based upon its outrageous conduct.