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Conservative student group says Purdue denied free speech, defended ‘radical’ group

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -– A Purdue student group is claiming the Dean of Students Office is showing politically motivated, preferential treatment of some student organizations and their right to protest on campus.

The student members of the Conservative Coalition for American Values (CCAV) feel they were denied the right to protest a memorial display constructed by another student group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), but then the members of SJP were permitted to protest and disrupt a CCAV event the following day.

On Wednesday, April 8, 2009 the Purdue University Students for Justice in Palestine held a display in Engineering Mall in memory of those killed during the Gaza massacre earlier this year. The display was accompanied by signs quoting various human rights groups, the UN, news outlets, United States Congressmen, and articles of the Geneva Convention. (Photo courtesy of yaseen08 via Flickr)

On Wednesday, April 8, 2009 the Purdue University Students for Justice in Palestine held a display in Engineering Mall in memory of those killed during the Gaza massacre earlier this year. The display was accompanied by signs quoting various human rights groups, the UN, news outlets, United States Congressmen, and articles of the Geneva Convention. (Photo courtesy of yaseen08 via Flickr)

On Wednesday, April 8th, the members of Students for Justice in Palestine erected a memorial on the Engineering Mall consisting of 1,389 black flags to represent the deaths of people in the Gaza conflict. Around the display, they had signs that condemned Israel for the deaths. The event was part of SJP’s mission to “an end to Israel’s system of apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

The signs surrounding the flags contained quotations from various human rights organizations, the UN, news outlets, etc. One sign read: “Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes. Their attacks resulted in the death of hundreds of children and other civilians and massive destruction of homes and infrastructure.” - Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International.

CCAV members responded to these messages by carrying an American flag and holding signs around the memorial. CCAV signs reading “Hamas blocked medical aid to Palestinian civilians” and “Hamas uses human shields” were meant to counter what they believe are falsehoods about Israel propagated by a “radical” student group.

Both views of the conflict were represented until the Associate Dean of Students, according to a statement issued by the CCAV, told the Conservative Coalition that they were not allowed to hold signs because they were “disturbing” SJP’s event.

“I was shocked when I was told I couldn’t express my beliefs when I was supporting my own country and our ally, Israel, against people who support Hamas,” said CCAV Finance Director Michael Bagnoli. “I walked away wondering why Students for Justice in Palestine gained favorable treatment from my school and if my rights had been violated.”

CCAV member in front of Students for Justice in Palestine's "Bring Gaza Home" display.

CCAV member in front of Students for Justice in Palestine 'Bring Gaza Home' display.

The following day (Thursday, April 9th), the Conservative Coalition hosted guest speaker Nonie Darwish, author of “Cruel and Usual Punishment” and “Now They Call me Infidel”, who spoke about the threat of Islamo-fascism and what she believes are the atrocities of Sharia Law. According to the CCAV statement, SJP members disrupted the event with shouting, arguing, and personal character attacks as well as distributing “slanderous information” about Darwish.

The statement goes on to say that protesters at the Darwish event shouted attacks like, “ She has no right to be speaking” and “How much was that necklace? How much was your haircut? I would ask about the suit but it’s pretty nasty.”

CCAV representatives said that while the University administration showed concern over the rights of SJP to hold their event without protesters, the Associate Dean of Students “stood quietly as the students’ behavior escalated out of control.”

After the event, Nonie Darwish said, “I have encountered some of the most radical students at the audience at Purdue who said that I should never be allowed to speak… all they cared about [was] defending the indefensible and denying any kind of violation for human rights done in the name of Islam and Sharia.”

Even after living under Sharia Law for 47 years, Nonie Darwish was shocked that, “Not one [SJP] student said that [he or she] was offended by the stoning of women and by the violations of human rights by both Muslims and non-Muslims who live under Sharia Law. I see the culture of hate and anti-Semitism that I grew up with in the Muslim world moving to U.S. campuses.”

The Dean of Students Office was unavailable for comment at the time of publishing.

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5 Responses to “Conservative student group says Purdue denied free speech, defended ‘radical’ group”

  1. Joffre Miller says:

    It does not seem that the Purdue’s Associate Dean of Students is following the University’s Statement of Ethics, particularly the portion which reads, “We champion freedom of expression. To ensure our integrity, we safeguard academic freedom, open inquiry, and debate in the best interests of education, enrichment, and our personal and professional development. We embrace human and intellectual diversity and inclusiveness. We uphold the highest standards of fairness, act as responsible citizens, respect equality and the rights of others, and treat all individuals with dignity” (Purdue University – Statement of Integrity and Code of Conduct, 2008) Seems inconsistent to me…

    Purdue University – Statement of Integrity and Code of Conduct. (2008). Purdue University. Retrieved December 9, 2009, from http://www.purdue.edu/purdue/about/integrity_statement.html

  2. Mr Gordon says:

    CCAV should approach this oppression in a time honored and results oriented manner.
    Get the names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses of University Alumni, read – MONEY DONORS – and ask them if this is how they want their money spent and university to operate.

    Things will change…fast. And one of the expected changes should be to replace that useless toad of an Associate Dean of Students.

  3. Star Stuart says:

    4-28-09
    This does raise many questions
    concerning the fairness and justice
    aspects evidenced in this situation.
    Why is Purdue afraid to offend
    certain viewpoints/groups
    and not others?

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