Last Wednesday, several student activist groups protested San Diego State President Elliot Hirshman’s response to posters displaying anti-Muslim sentiments posted around the school’s campus. Student leaders specifically asked Hirshman for an apology regarding an email that, according to them, did not sufficiently address the posters, which identified specific SDSU students by name as Palestinian terrorists who perpetuate anti-Semitism.
Hirshman’s initial email response to the posters recognized the right to freedom of speech and the accountability that comes with taking political positions. Students were unsatisfied with this and took the opportunity to surround Hirshman in a police cruiser as he was leaving an event.
They demanded an apology for the inadequate administrative response, to which Hirshman offered a formal meeting with those students who were named on the posters to discuss their concerns about the original email’s lack of action.
This past Monday, SDSU students and members of the Students for Justice in Palestine Osama Alkhawaja and Rachel Beck met with Hirshman in person to discuss the incident. Beck recalled the events of the meeting, emphasizing how Hirschman likened SJP’s goals to that of a terrorist group’s.
“The president was saying [we appeared to be] ‘allied’ [with terrorists], because the fliers say that we’re allied with terrorist groups,” Beck told the UCSD Guardian. “He defines allied as ‘a common cause or goal’ and he said that terrorists have a common cause or goal with us and that goal is [Boycott, Divest and Sanction] … because they support BDS, and because [we] support BDS, I guess that’s how we’re allied.”
An email was sent out to students yesterday regarding the discussion that occurred as a joint statement from both university representatives as well as student leaders, explaining the actions that will be taken.
“Creating the appropriate balance between freedom of expression and protecting members of our community from harassment, as in the current case where students were named individually on a flyer posted on our campus, poses a significant challenge,” the statement read. “The parties have agreed that in collaboration with A.S. and under the aegis of the University Senate, they will undertake a review of university policies to ensure we are balancing freedom of expression and protection from harassment.
Beck expressed frustration with the administration’s unsupportive response toward the severity of the situation, contrasting her own experience with that of her friends.
“For me, my biggest concern is just the fact that when I Google my name, the first thing that immediately comes up are [things] that are calling me a terrorist … If a prospective employer looks me up [and sees these websites], that’s my biggest concern,” Beck told the UCSD Guardian. “Most of the students are either Arab, Muslim or both, and a lot of them have been scared, whereas I’m white, European, not affiliated with any religion, so I don’t fit the common racist perception of what a terrorist looks like. I’m not [personally] very scared, but I’m scared for them — it makes me mad that the president doesn’t understand this very real fear that students have as a Muslim student on campus.”
The posters were created by the David Horwitz Center for Freedom whose mission is to “combat the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values and disarm this country as it attempts to defend itself in a time of terror” by focusing on college campus activism.
The DHCF has made appearances at other campuses including UC Berkeley, UC Irvine and UCSD. In particular, UCSD’s Young Americans for Freedom organization hosted Horowitz, a conservative Jewish author, in 2010 for a dialogue between Muslims and Jews.
This Thursday evening Horowitz is slated to speak at an SDSU College Republicans event titled “David Horowitz on Fighting Anti-Semitism on College Campuses.” According to the Facebook event, the SDSU Muslim Student Union is planning on holding a 100-person march on the day of the event, though Beck recently informed the Guardian that no protest would happen. The SDSU College Republicans have made the event open only to those who are on the guest list.