Students for Justice in Palestine receives interim suspension following alleged violation of CWRU’s Code of Conduct

Flyer postings prompt investigation, compliance request

Case Western Reserve University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) received an interim loss of university recognition on Feb. 26 due to allegedly violating the university Code of Conduct.


On Feb. 13, 11 students believed by the Office of Student Conduct to be associated with SJP posted flyers to the CWRU Spirit Wall, which is strictly for painting. In addition, on Feb. 16, four students believed to be associated with SJP glued flyers around campus. Additional flyers were glued to Adelbert Hall and its vicinity on Feb. 23. As a result, the university pursued the student conduct process against both SJP and those whom they identified as being responsible based on claims of property damage and non-compliance with university requests. On Feb. 16, 19, 21 and 23, the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards contacted SJP leaders and advisors to request a scheduled meeting and information about the individuals involved in the posting of the flyers.

To be considered for reinstatement as a student organization, SJP must provide the names of students involved in posting the flyers and “engage in continued participation in meetings with the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards to investigate and resolve the incidents through the student conduct process.” In their Feb. 26 letter to SJP, the university wrote, “Failure to adhere to this notice or any form of retaliation will be considered an additional code of conduct violation and may result in further conduct charges and sanctions.”

Choosing to remain anonymous, SJP Member A said, “SJP as an organization did not organize the postings of the flyers being posted.”

After receiving the university’s Feb. 26 letter, SJP posted a statement to their Instagram account and shared email and call templates for CWRU community members to contact the administration in support of reinstating the organization.

“This allegation by CWRU demonstrates that students who support Palestinian voices are guilty until proven innocent,” SJP wrote on their Instagram. “The relationship between CWRU administration and its students is forever tainted by its deliberate creation of a hostile and unsafe student environment as a way to ignore their own complicit role in shedding Palestinian blood.”

Undergraduate Student Government (USG) meeting and university comments

The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) hosted an open Executive Meeting on March 5 to discuss SJP’s interim loss of recognition.

Peter Whiting, the interim vice president of student affairs, said in the meeting that the interim loss of recognition is solely because SJP didn’t adhere to the university’s Code of Conduct.

“I want to make it clear that it was not the content of the messages that was the issue. It was not even the postings that were done in the manner that was incongruent with our posting policy,” he said. “It was ultimately the failure to respond in the conduct process that made us take the step to the interim suspension.”

The university said they had difficulty identifying who the members of SJP were and don’t have a current roster of the organization. CWRU student groups require a minimum of 10 or 15 members, and the university is unsure whether or not SJP officially has 10. Whiting said the investigation is underway, and, in some cases, the Office of Student Conduct has surveillance videos to aid in the process.

“There are members that looked like they are strongly affiliated with SJP. That was part of the reason—identifying individuals with SJP that we knew were associated with SJP. There were also others who seemed to be acting like members and spending a lot of time with them,” Whiting said regarding the strength of the allegation. “SJP was on some of those posters so that would imply that it was connected to that group. We are hoping to understand who the right people to call in regarding these violations of policy would be.”

SJP Member A emphasized that complying with the university’s requests doesn’t guarantee SJP reinstatement.

“Complying with these items would be quite negligent and dangerous on our part, as we would be risking the lives of students on campus,” they said. “The university asked us to provide a full up-to-date roster of all SJP general body members. This is a particularly heinous request since we know very well it is a threat, but also because complying with it would evidently put general body members at risk for attacks, doxxing and threats.”

SJP’s reactions to the interim loss of recognition

SJP Member A said receiving the interim loss of recognition was unexpected.

“It seemed to come out of nowhere and left us grappling with uncertainty about the future of our organization activities,” SJP Member A said. “Personally, I felt a combination of disappointment. Disappointment at the lack of consultation and communication regarding the decision. Moving forward, we are committed to engaging in constructive dialogue especially with the administration to address our concerns.”

SJP Member B said they heard about the posting of flyers on Feb. 14 and 16.

“I didn’t think much of it because after all, it’s the Spirit Wall, a place for student expression,” they said.

Adeline Barry Davee Distinguished Professor of History and SJP faculty advisor Ted Steinberg said that the university’s response to the posting of the flyers seems harsh and overly legalistic.

“The CWRU administration wants to prioritize university property over people, punishing students who are upset and crying out to stop the bloodshed,” he said. “I’m sure CWRU can think of a more humane way to treat courageous, politically active students than to take an iron-fisted approach as if it were operating a prosecutor’s office.”

According to SJP Member A, President Eric Kaler frustrated students, faculty and staff in his response to the Israel-Hamas war.

“We’re told not only are a significant amount of professors angry about the administration’s pro-Israel stance, many are also frustrated because they’re being getting orders from Kaler/upper admin, telling them what exactly they should be teaching in their classes, what they shouldn’t say, etc.”

Broader context

In November 2023, SJP organized a student walkout and invited the community to express “no confidence” in President Kaler’s response to the Israel-Hamas war. At the walkout, SJP called on the university to recognize Resolution 31-15. This bill was passed by USG in November 2022 and asks the university to divest its investments from Israeli apartheid, the international military-industrial complex and the international prison-industrial complex. SJP said there have been no developments on either matter.

“Unfortunately, the university administration has remained unresponsive, refusing to acknowledge the bill or engage in discussions about divestment. This lack of acknowledgement has left many students feeling disheartened, as they persist in their efforts to ensure that their concerns are heard and acted upon,” SJP Member B said.

Looking forward

SJP is still considering the implications of not being recognized by the university as a student organization, such as a lack of access to resources and facilities.

“The surge in backing post-suspension speaks volumes about the strength of our cause and the unity within our community,” SJP Member B said. “This surge could potentially bolster our visibility and influence on campus, showcasing the widespread endorsement of our organization’s objectives.”

Highlighting SJP’s goal of advocating for the Palestinian cause and educating students about the history of Israeli occupation of Palestine, SJP Member B said the organization’s goal is to create a more open discourse on these topics.

“Up until now I feel like we have achieved this,” they said. “If the administration does not reinstate SJP, it marks a disturbing step backward for CWRU, echoing a darker era when anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia were unchecked on campus.”

Whiting said the university wants to uphold community standards.

“We want to work with you and make sure you understand why this is problematic,” Whiting said at the USG meeting. “To some extent, we have extended grace to the SJP organization. We did not broadcast that they were under interim suspension. It was again because we don’t care to do more than fundamentally educate.”

SJP anticipates receiving more information regarding a reinstatement decision once the university finishes its investigation. SJP Member B said the decision regarding SJP’s recognition might affect how the organization can interact with the campus community going forward.

“Despite these potential hurdles, our dedication to our mission remains resolute,” they said. “We’ll persist in advocating for justice and equity, harnessing our collective strength and the steadfast support of our community to drive progress. While our presence on campus might encounter obstacles, our determination to create positive change remains unwavering.”

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