April 5, 2019
Emory University President Claire E. Sterk acknowledged in a letter to members of the Emory community that the Palestinian mock eviction notices “exposed several flaws” in the university’s process for approving flyers.
The notices, which were found on the doors of students living in dormitories on April 2, said that the suites are “scheduled for demolition in three days” and accused Israel of demolishing Palestinian homes as part of their efforts to “ethnically cleanse the region.” They were posted by Emory Students for Justice in Palestine.
Sterk started off the letter by saying that she had heard various concerns about the matter from students, alumni and outside organizations.
“Emory’s commitments to creating an environment where all members of the community feel safe and protected and to upholding free speech and vigorous debate remain unquestioned,” Sterk wrote. “Emory stands firm against all forms of racism and intolerance.”
She added that the posting of the notices “exposed several flaws in our process for the approval, authorization, and distribution of flyers.”
“I don’t want to prejudge the outcome of our investigation or prescribe changes before we know all of the facts,” Sterk wrote. “But I’m confident we will balance the need to protect free speech and the security and dignity of all in our community.”
Sterk continued, “I apologize for any part that Emory has played in causing pain to members of our community and those beyond our campus. That is the last thing I would want for anyone who visits, lives, works, or studies at our university. I respect the passions and competing views this experience has generated.”
Earlier in the week, the university said in a statement on the matter, “While a student group received permission to post the flyers, they did not comply with posting guidelines and the flyers were removed.” The likely violation was that the flyers were posted on students’ doors without their consent.
Dave Cohn, director of Emory Hillel, encouraged community members to read Sterk’s full remarks in a letter to the community.
“Over the past few days, the supportive response we’ve felt from our extended Jewish and Pro-Israel Emory Family, as well as from communities across the country, has been remarkable,” Cohn wrote. “In response to the ‘eviction notice’ flyers distributed on campus Tuesday morning, thousands have made their voices heard. We want to particularly thank the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta for issuing a strong statement in partnership with a broad coalition yesterday.”
Cohn added, “We recognize that our community continues to express a diversity of opinion regarding the events of the week and the university’s response. No matter your personal views, we know that hard work remains in moving forward and guaranteeing that our community has every measure of support to thrive on this campus.”
Max Samarov, the executive director of Research and Strategy at StandWithUs, said in a statement to the Journal, “Many Jewish and non-Jewish students were rightfully upset by the anti-Israel propaganda flyers, particularly because they included Emory’s logo and seemed to be supported by the university.”
“It’s encouraging to see Emory’s President acknowledge that this situation was handled the wrong way and commit to fixing it,” Samarov said. “We hope to see her follow this by taking action to protect student rights and push back against hate speech.”
Allison Padilla-Goodman, the regional director of Anti-Defamation League Southeast, wrote in an April 4 letter to the university, “The anti-Israel activists who passed out these notices are creating tension, intimidating and isolating students, and fostering a hostile atmosphere on campus.”
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