Campus Reform | 'Academic fiasco': Duke student leaders vetoed pro-Israel student organization

'Academic fiasco': Duke student leaders vetoed pro-Israel student organization

The president of the Duke Student Government vetoed the body's approval of a Students Supporting Israel chapter.

The decision has gained national attention November, with FIRE sending a letter to the DSG requesting formal recognition for the group.

The Duke Student Government (DSG) recently “chartered” a chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI), only to uphold its president’s veto of the organization days later.

The Chronicle reported that the Nov. 10 approval followed SSI’s stated intention to be “clear and confident pro-Israel voice on college campuses and to support students in grassroots pro-Israel advocacy.” 

Five days later, however, the outlet reported that the DSG president, Christina Wang, vetoed the body’s approval of SSI over a now deleted social media interaction reportedly between the group and an individual that did not conform to expected conduct for a student organization.

[RELATED: WATCH: Individual shows hatred for Israel by EATING Star of David in front of classmates]

One day later, the nonprofit organization Stop Antisemitism characterized the incident as an “academic fiasco” on Twitter. 

Alanna Peykar, co-president of Duke’s SSI chapter, told Campus Reform, “I don’t think the veto can directly be called antisemitism. I have spoken to Christina Wang and I know those were not her intentions. However, by ignoring the antisemitism in the student’s remark [the veto] is allowing the perpetuation of anti-Zionist remarks such as this one.”

Campus Reform also spoke with a member of the DSG. The senator, who requested anonymity, suggested that the social media exchange in question may have been misinterpreted. 

“In their post, they seemed to be inviting her rather than ostracizing her...(mentioning) she was welcome in their organization to discuss and debate the stance,” the senator said. 

One Duke student told Campus Reform that the entire that SSI may have been treated unfairly due to its mission. 

“This intensive level of scrutiny and harsh consequences over such a naive mistake that was apologized for and corrected tends towards a double standard that makes Israel supporters (including Jews) more afraid to speak up about their opinions,” said the student, who requested anonymity. 

[RELATED: Hundreds of Harvard students condemn Israel in statement that omits any mention of Hamas]

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent a letter Nov. 17 to the Duke DSG requesting that the student body “overturn Wang’s veto and ensure SSI is promptly granted recognition.”

Zach Greenberg, a program officer at FIRE, told Campus Reform, “Denying the rights and privileges of recognition to student groups solely because they engage in expression protected under First Amendment standards, such as offensive speech, violates students' expressive rights and the university's obligation to respect these rights.”

The DSG upheld Wang’s veto one day later on Nov. 18. 

“It became political, and a hostile environment,” Peykar said, recounting the final stages of the whole ordeal.

Campus Reform reached out to Wang and Duke University for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.