‘Finally’: Duke student gov’t recognizes pro-Israel club after months of controversy

Duke Student Government accused of discriminating against Jewish students and violating their right to free speech.

By Dion J. Pierre, The Algemeiner

Duke University’s student government voted on Wednesday to recognize Students Supporting Israel (SSI) as a registered campus club, months after it was controversially denied that status.

While the Student Government (DSG) Senate previously granted SSI recognition in November, this decision was vetoed by DSG’s president days later, after the pro-Israel club shared and criticized an Instagram post by a student who accused SSI of promoting “settler colonialism.” The Senate later sustained the veto with 37 votes in favor, 10 abstentions, and 8 absent senators.

The veto, which the president justified by claiming that SSI “singled out” the student, was decried by Jewish groups at Duke and nationwide as evidence of rising antisemitism and anti-Zionist sentiment on campus.

Responding to these concerns, Duke University President Vincent E. Price promised to provide alternative means of support for SSI, but many Jewish advocacy organizations, including the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law — who warned that the university could face “potential legal liability” over SSI’s unequal treatment — contended that nothing short of full recognition would rectify the situation.

SSI’s national office on Wednesday applauded DSG for doing “the right thing” by reinstating the pro-Israel club.

“While much can be said about the events of the past four months, in this message we want to highlight one of the most important things that this process showed us: the strength of the pro-Israel community when it stands united,” SSI national said.

Also commenting on the news, Alyza Lewin, president of the Brandeis Center, noted that DSG had inordinately scrutinized SSI’s application for recognition “from the start.”

“They were subjected to intense questioning in the application process unlike any other groups,” Lewin said. “They were asked to appear, in-person, at their application hearing to answer questions, when other groups are approved without any in-person appearance. And then, and most egregiously, they were singled out and their recognition was revoked, all because they support Israel.”

Lewin argued that DSG violated SSI members’ right to free speech and subjected them to discrimination because of the “Zionist component of their Jewish identity.”

“We are pleased the university finally did the right thing and righted this egregious wrong without our needing to take legal action,” she continued. “But this type of discrimination must not happen at Duke or any other university. We were honored to support the Duke SSI students who exhibited remarkable strength and conviction, standing up for themselves and what’s right.”

Duke University did not respond to The Algemeiner’s request for comment in time for publication.