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Students sue CUNY law school over ban on commencement speakers, saying move is anti-Palestinian

Eight CUNY Law School students are suing the embattled institution, claiming it violated federal censorship rules by excluding from the start student-selected speakers who have recently been anti-Israel.

The ban on the left-wing institution was imposed after graduate Fatima Mousa Mohammed gave a hate-filled speech last spring denigrating Israel, “white supremacy” in America and the “fascist” NYPD.

The students’ complaint, filed in Manhattan federal court, alleges “suppression” of free speech and “unlawful suppression” of two customs for the opening of the City University of New York law school, publicly funded: student-elected speakers and live students. broadcast and recording of the event.

CUNY Law School student Fatima Mousa Mohammed started hate speech early last year.
Protesters gathered outside CUNY in early spring. Getty Images

The plaintiffs claim that CUNY censors speech that supports “Palestinian freedom.”

This year’s CUNY law graduation ceremony will take place on May 23 at the Apollo Theater in Harlem in Manhattan.

“CUNY Law has a long history of celebrating its founding with elected student speakers, who often highlight social justice causes and freedom movements,” said Sajia Hanif, a third-year student at CUNY Law and the one of the plaintiffs, in a press release published by Muslimadvocates. .org, the group that filed the complaint.

“It is outrageous that CUNY would rather erase this tradition and stifle free speech than allow students to speak and be heard at the culmination event of their program,” Hanif said.

“The cancellation of student speakers only happened after Arab, Palestinian and visibly Muslim women began speaking out in support of Palestinian freedom – clearly a targeted and discriminatory response aimed at preventing students from call for an end to the Israeli genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza. »

Another plaintiff, Nusayba Hammad, a third-year Palestinian law student, said the restriction on free speech “affects all CUNY Law graduate students and sets a dangerous precedent not only for students who want to speak in support for the Palestinians but for anyone at CUNY who advocates for justice. and freedom. »

The lawsuit names CUNY Law School Dean Sudha Setty as a defendant, along with CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodgriguez and the CUNY Board of Trustees, including President Bill Thompson.

The lawsuits claim that pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli viewpoints were targeted for censorship, in violation of free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

“The First Amendment clearly protects free speech within public institutions such as
CUNY, regardless of view, and subject only to very narrow limitations,” the lawsuit states.

“Its protections are especially crucial in a setting like law school, which is supposed to train students like plaintiffs to critically confront the opposing and often charged viewpoints that abound in legal defense.” »

A representative from CUNY Law responded: “In accordance with University policy, CUNY School of Law does not comment on complaints or pending litigation. »

Protesters at City College raged last month. Getty Images

CUNY’s chancellor and board of trustees also declined to comment on the litigation through a representative.

The lawsuit comes as numerous pro-Hamas anti-Israel protests and even riots have recently taken place on college campuses – including at Columbia University – where law-breaking protesters have been arrested for vandalizing and occupied a university building.

Additionally, the CUNY Law School Council and student government passed resolutions in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, which critics say resembles anti-Semitism.

CUNY stressed the importance of holding graduation ceremonies without interruption.

“Each year, more than 50,000 CUNY students proudly graduate in more than 25 commencement ceremonies, a tradition we look forward to continuing this year,” CUNY said in a general statement regarding the opening on its campuses.

“We are working with campus leaders to ensure students enjoy a sendoff with their classmates, families and faculty that honors their hard work and accomplishments.” »

New York Post

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