Academic Freedom Group Urges Skidmore College to Reverse Call on ‘Progressive Zionists for Peace’ Club

Jonsson Tower, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs NY. Photo: Peter Flass / Wikimedia Commons

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a non-profit organization defending academic freedom on US college campuses, urged Skidmore College’s Club Affairs Committee (CAC) in a Wednesday letter to rectify its decision and grant the trial period for the “Progressive Zionists for Peace” (PZP) student club.

Nessa Goldhirsch Brown and another student at Skidmore College had been denied a trial period for the group, even as others, including Skidmore Students for Justice in Palestine, had been approved. In the decision, the university’s CAC disclosed that “some members expressed concern that a dialogue focused club with one perspective being conveyed could be troublesome.” The two club founders appealed the decision and have prompted the CAC to hold another vote on Friday.

“This viewpoint-based rejection is a form of censorship that violates Skidmore’s commitments to its students’ freedom of expression and association. We call on Skidmore’s student government to rectify its violation of its constituents’ rights when it considers PZP’s appeal on Friday, March 19. Failing that, we call on Skidmore’s administration to ensure that PZP is granted all of the rights and privileges attendant with formal recognition,” Sabrina Conza, Program Analyst of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, wrote in the letter sent to committee members.

The letter was emailed to Skidmore’s Sarah Baker, Senior Senator of the Student Government Association; Haja Isatu Bah, Vice President for Club Affairs of the Student Government Association; and Rachael Borthwick, President of the Student Government Association.

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“I am grateful for the support from FIRE, and hope Skidmore’s CAC takes the concerns seriously. I am optimistic about the new vote on Friday, and hope for a positive outcome,” the club’s co-founder Goldhirsch Brown wrote in an emailed response to The Algemeiner. “I do not believe there was any maliciousness or antisemitic discrimination from CAC, but rather a fear of the word Zionism as well as a misunderstanding about our club.”

Skidmore told The Algemeiner that the PZP student club “was not officially denied a club trial period by Skidmore’s Club Affairs Committee. Rather, they were asked to return at a later date to clarify their mission and goals.” The CAC and the students seeking to establish the PZP club will meet tomorrow for a follow-up discussion to address any “miscommunications or misunderstandings,” said Sara Miga, a spokesperson at the private college, in an email.

“I am hopeful they will reverse their decision, and PZP can move forward in educating Skidmore about peaceful Zionism, creating a space to discuss Israel, and try to alleviate the negative connotation that goes along with the word ‘Zionism,’” Goldhirsch Brown said.


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