Editor’s note: Several individuals featured in this article were concerned about experiencing harassment after publication. In a recent column, Duke Student Government President Christina Wang highlighted some of her experiences dealing with extensive bullying over the last few months after she vetoed recognition of Duke’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel, citing inappropriate social media conduct by the organization in her veto.
The Chronicle is committed to maintaining journalistic standards and credibility in our coverage. After speaking with students featured in the article, we have elected to grant anonymity to a student who requested it due to fear of harassment. We have confirmed the accuracy of the quotes published through our own recording of the meeting.
Duke Student Government senators debated awarding funding for two speaker events hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine after senators raised concerns based on the definition of antisemitism unanimously adopted by DSG senators in February.
SJP submitted two applications for their speaker events, “Palestine 101” with Dana Alhasan and “Narrating Resistance and Agency: Shifting the Discourse on Palestine” with author Mohammed El-Kurd and journalist Ahmed El-Din. Both events would include honorarium payments for the speakers.
“They’re both very well known, very well-renowned names, internationally acclaimed and have a very well-established presence in the Palestinian organizing community. Additionally, Alhasan is a local community organizer,” said a member of SJP, who wished to remain anonymous. “We were hoping to bring a global, large-scale movement to campus with a local aspect as well.”
First-year senator Alex Dray observed a quote in Mohammed El-Kurd’s book Rifqa, in which he wrote that “[Israelis] harvest organs of the martyred [Palestinians], feed their warriors our own.”
Sophomore senator Nicole Rosenzweig added to Dray’s example, mentioning El-Kurd’s tweets, one of which stated that people were “KRISTALLNACHTING [Palestinians] IN REAL TIME.” El-Kurd has also tweeted that Zionists have “an unquenchable thirst for Palestinian blood,” which Rosenzweig remarked feeds into the blood libel trope.
“Would this not send the wrong message and potentially promote violence against Jewish students on campus by providing $5,000 for this individual to speak, despite his antisemitic tweets and statements?” Rosenzweig asked.
Members of the SJP executive board said that they did not agree with all of the speakers’ views.
“The club has done its research, and the club is also simultaneously still willing to extend an invitation for [El-Kurd] to come speak on campus,” the anonymous SJP member said. “The honorarium and invitation to speak are by no means an endorsement of everything the speaker has or ever will say.”
During the questioning period, President Pro Tempore Devan Desai, a junior, clarified Student Organization Finance Committee and DSG procedures regarding hate speech. Desai noted that the SOFC bylaws included an anti-discrimination clause that addressed group actions, but not speech by individuals.
After a three-minute unmoderated caucus, senators opened the floor for a public forum.
“The point of an educational campus like this university [is] you can pursue discussion, education, enlightenment, and encouragement,” the anonymous SJP member said. “We are being diligent to ensure that this remains a safe space and not offensive at all. And I think because of that, we as a club that has a long history here at the campus, and as part of a national organization, we have the ability to keep this dignified and to keep this respectful.”
Following a series of protected speeches, senators allocated the proposed $16,835 for the “Narrating Resistance and Agency: Shifting the Discourse on Palestine” event with a raised hand vote. Of the 58 Senators in DSG, 17 approved the funding and eight opposed.
Regarding the “Palestine 101” event, first-year senator Preston Nibley pointed to a March 11 retweet by Dana Alhasan describing NATO as “an arm of Western imperialism and white supremacy.”
“It's one thing to have a speaker and host, another to pay for their travel expenses, but to give them an honorarium and essentially endorse that view?” Nibley said. “I'm just not totally sure that's probably supported by the majority of the constituent body.”
After some debate, senators allotted $1,605.00 for the “Palestine 101” event with a voice vote.
In other business
DSG senators allocated $8,570.02 for Delta Sigma Theta’s Rhapsody in Red charity ball, $9,437 for duARTS’s Mural Durham event, $4,632 to DukeAFRICA’s Jabulani event, $3,040.00 for Mi Gente’s Latinx Awards Night, $4,500 for the Muslim Students Association’s Spring Kickback, $2,500.00 for Shave and Buzz’s fundraiser, $7,309.90 and $2,766.33 for Duke Dance Council and Devils en Pointe’s respective spring showcases, $10,123.40 for the Duke Dhamaka Nachde Nashville Dance Competition, $2,205.70 for Out of the Blue’s Women’s History Month Acapella Concert and $6,457.63 for Phi Beta Sigma’s Soul Lounge event.
Senators also allocated $150 for gift card incentives for a survey of students' voter engagement.
DSG changed the statuses of Lady Blue and the Duke Boomwhackers Club from recognized to chartered.
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Audrey Wang is a Trinity junior and editor-in-chief of The Chronicle's 119th volume.