TALKING POINTS: StandWithUs Letter Demands University Action Against Use of Official Online Accounts for Anti-Israel Activism
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GUIDANCE
· On Aug. 10, 2021, StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department, in cooperation with the StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism, initiated a national campaign to address directly the rampant exploitation of official university assets (communication channels, branding) for political activism that violates professional codes of conduct and pre-existing ethics policies at most universities—policies that are rarely enforced.
· The letter is a call to action, asking universities to enforce these policies and train faculty and staff on these matters.
· Through direct emails to university presidents and chief legal counsels, the letter provides much needed clarification on these policies and the intersection with First Amendment rights or the Principles of Academic Freedom, both often used to defend and justify the problematic—anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and antisemitic—actions of students, professors, or administrators.
· The clarification reminds university leadership that these are widely established policies for institutions of higher education. Relatedly, these are policies commonplace among business and government entities. These policies are not specific to the issue of anti-Israel activism, antisemitism, and anti-Zionism. Rather, these policies protect universities from the appearance of officially endorsing hate or political view.
· We know that by leveraging these communication vehicles, anti-Israel activism, antisemitism, and anti-Zionism creates a hostile learning and working environment for Jewish and Israeli students.
· For many Jewish and Israeli students and faculty, Zionism—the right of Jews to self-determination in their ancestral homeland of Israel—is an integral part of their identity, creates a feeling of security as Jews in the diaspora, and forms a fundamental part of their ethnic, ancestral, and religious heritage.
· Examples of Communication Channels and Branding include: all forms of communications channels and those associated with university branding (logos, letterhead, etc.) to include: emails, distribution lists, listservs, newsletters, websites and all social media platforms associated with the Departments and the University’s branding.
CALL TO ACTION
· StandWithUs is seeking meaningful action in response to the letter to include university issuance of guidelines to faculty and students, as well as trainings, to ensure campus political activists—be they students, professors, or administrators—stop using official university channels to disseminate inflammatory, partisan, or hateful messages. To restate, this in no way runs afoul of First Amendment rights and principles of academic freedom.
· StandWithUs is eager to collaborate with universities to create welcoming environments for Jewish and/or Israeli and other pro-Israel students.
Violations were commonplace during the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas in May 2021, when countless academic departments and student governments misused official university social media accounts and email lists to promote hatred of Israel and, in many cases, antisemitism. This activity evolved from the growing trend among disciplines and departments, often without a direct academic connection to these issues, making inflammatory statements and demands for action. This activity fuels campus hostility for Jewish students and faculty, who are increasingly feeling marginalized and discriminated against.
StandWithUs receives hundreds of requests from alumni, students, and parents asking if a particular university is a welcoming place for Jewish, pro-Israel 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 universities themselves. University leaders should clarify to these alumni, students, and parents whether their campuses will implement the crucial guidelines StandWithUs recommends.