The Lawfare Project and Brandeis Center urge New York University to effectively address intimidation and harassment
Yesterday, The Lawfare Project and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law sent a second letter urging New York University administrators to effectively address the campus atmosphere of intimidation and harassment relating to the April 2014 distribution of mock eviction notices into private student dorm rooms. The Lawfare Project and Brandeis Center’s initial letter can be viewed here.
[The text of yesterday’s letter begins below]
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President John Sexton
Office of the President
New York University
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012
Via Electronic Mail (email@example.com)
Dear President Sexton,
Thank you for your email in response to our letter sent to you on May 2, 2014. As you are aware, we are concerned about an atmosphere of intimidation and harassment in which mock eviction notices were pushed under the dormitory room doors and into the dormitory rooms of Jewish and non-Jewish students. While your email addresses the mock eviction notices, we are worried that it is a very general statement that does not address our specific concerns.
In your email you state, “But I have to take issue with one of the points you make in the letter: that dormitory where the leafleting was targeted because it is home to an especially large number of Jewish students. That claim is not supported by the facts. First you should be aware that Palladium was not the only residence in which the leafleting took place; it also occurred in our Lafayette St. residence hall. Moreover, we tested the claim that Palladium has a reputation of having an especially large Jewish presence with both our Residence Life and Housing Office and our Jewish chaplain; neither believe that Palladium or Lafayette St have such a reputation.” This email misses our points of concern.
Despite whether or not the Residence Life and Housing Office or the Jewish chaplain believes that the Palladium dormitory has a Jewish reputation, Palladium is the only dormitory building at New York University that has a Shabbat elevator. Moreover, your students have made clear to us that the existence of a Shabbat elevator is one of the reasons that so many prominent Jewish students are known to live there. If Palladium was targeted in any part because of its concentration of Jewish students, then this factor must be considered in determining the nature and severity of the infraction. Either way, however, the perpetrators’ choice of this particular building has aggravated the impact of the infractions despite also targeting the additional Lafayette dormitory.
It is also important to recognize that these mock eviction notices perpetuate stereotypes and defamations that are harmful to Jewish students and persons of Israeli national origin. The university should not overlook the extent to which such conduct undermines its efforts to foster civil discourse and ensure that all students will feel safe, welcome, and included.
You also indicated in your email that the Office of Residence Life is looking into this as a judicial matter. We urge you to act firmly and forcefully to discipline the individual perpetrators and any organization that facilitated their actions. According to some reports, the perpetrators are affiliated with an organization that has recently engaged in similar infractions at other institutions, leading to their recent suspension and subsequent probation at one university. In the event that the organization has been involved in multiple infractions at New York University, we urge you to consider this as well in the course of administering firm disciplinary action. We advise that you begin taking these steps during the summer before the Fall Semester begins.
Please let us know the current status on your university’s action on these matters and whether the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and The Lawfare Project may assist you in moving forward.
We thank you in advance for your serious consideration of this matter.
Kenneth L. Marcus
President & General Counsel
Danit L. Sibovits
The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law
Director of Research
The Lawfare Project