Tempers Flare Over Four Students’ Ejection from Controversial BDS Panel
By CHARLY HIMMEL
Security officials ejected four CUNY students from the controversial BDS panel during Judith Butler’s speech last week.
According to a BC Hillel-issued statement immediately following the incident, Melanie Goldberg, 21; Yvonne Juris, 22; Ari Ziegler, 23 and Michael Ziegler, 21 were “simply holding the anti-BDS flyers at the event.”
Once escorted into the hallway, one of the four students could be heard audibly shouting, “Is this what you call freedom of speech?”
The panel, which was open to all, had a strict RSVP list, which filled up quickly. Students who hadn’t signed up were waitlisted outside the event. Goldberg, an intern for Israel on Campus Coalition, claims she and her colleagues had sent a proper RSVP three weeks before the event, and even received a confirmation email, but found only Ari Ziegler’s name on the list.
“I knew VP Morales was contacted by the Hillel Director, Nadya Drukker, earlier that day to ensure us getting in,” the journalism and TV/radio student said. “So we contacted her, and she had to escort us in, twice.”
During Judith Butler’s speech, Goldberg pulled out a stack of flyers containing facts and questions she had prepared for the event.
“President Gould had encouraged us to do so,” Goldberg explained. “I passed a few to Michael and one to Yvonne because they had wanted to read them.”
That’s when SJP organizer Carlos Guzman stepped in.
“I approached Melanie. I said, ‘I’m going to ask you to please give me the flyers,’” Guzman explained. “She refused.”
He then told Vice President Milga Morales what had transpired, and asked the students to leave.
“He then threatened, coming very close to my face, to get security to force all of us out,” said Goldberg. “I refused, turning to VP Morales for help. She promptly looked away and left the room. Her answer to me was that ‘it’s their event. They call the shots.’ Security then came and escorted us out.”
“A senior administrative official said it was justified.” Said CLAS Assembly Speaker David Rosenberg. “A student disrupted the event and security asked them to leave. Once outside, they were even more vocal and disruptive.”
“I’d like to reiterate that I was not disseminating them, I was not making any noise, and I had yet to ask a question. I was not disrupting their event in the slightest,” Goldberg stated.
Goldberg believes she was blacklisted from the event after a confrontation during the Students for Justice in Palestine’s screening of “The People and the Olive” in November of last year, where Guzman claimed she “tried to disrupt and instigate one of our events last semester.”
“I was told to ‘shut up,’” Goldberg said. “I do believe that this was the SJP members ways to ensure that I would be ‘shut up’ for sure at this event.”
At President Karen Gould’s behest, Brooklyn College is currently conducting an investigation of the circumstances that led the four students to be removed from the event.
“We stand by our previous statements that the college should be a place where all may express their views,” Executive Director of Marketing, Communications and Public Relations Jeremy Thompson said in his statement responding to the incident. “If we learn that these students were denied that opportunity without cause, as they allege, the decision to have them removed will have been inappropriate and the college will issue a formal apology.”
“I’m really upset that the college does not want to respect my freedom of speech and I don’t understand the legality of it,” Goldberg said. “There needs to be open dialogue. Both sides need to be at the table.”
Aside from the incident, the panel ran smoothly. “I think overall the event was a safe and successful one,” Guzman said. “We did not have any major disruptions.”
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