Breeden Hall at Duke University
Breeden Hall at Duke UniversityiStock

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is urging Duke University to override its student government’s refusal to approve a campus chapter of a pro-Israel group.

In November, Students Supporting Israel (SSI) were “surprised and disturbed” to learn that Duke’s student government (DSG) president had decided to veto the approval of their campus chapter.

SSI, which has a presence on 160 university campuses in the United States and internationally, said in a statement that it chartered a new Duke chapter on November 10 in order to make “Israel education programming” available to Duke students.

In a letter addressed to Duke President Vincent Price and signed by ZOA national president Morton Klein, Center for Law & Justice director Susan Tuchman and ZOA Campus managing director Jonathan Ginsburg, the ZOA said it was “extremely troubled” to learn that the student government “wrongfully denied” official approval to the group’s campus chapter, and that Duke administration has not overridden their decision.

In their letter, ZOA presented a list of facts that “demonstrate [that] DSG singled out and discriminated against SSI, in violation of Duke University’s policies, and DSG’s misconduct should be addressed immediately.”

The letter went on to charge that “DSG’s decision wrongfully singled out and discriminated against a group that supports Israel.”

“In vetoing SSI’s official recognition (which the DSG upheld), DSG President Christina Wang pointedly made it clear that SSI was not being singled out for disparate treatment. Any student group that exhibited ‘potentially hostile or harmful’ [behavior] could lose its official status, she asserted,” ZOA wrote.

“But as Duke and DSG know, members of a chartered student group have repeatedly engaged in hostile and harmful behavior toward Duke students simply because they are Jewish and express their Jewish identity by supporting the Jewish State of Israel. Yet neither Duke nor DSG has ever held this group accountable for its misconduct. It remains a chartered student group to the present day, affording the group access to the annual budget and the programming fund,” said the letter, referring to “Duke Students for Justice in Palestine” (SJP).

ZOA explained that Duke has the “right and obligation to override DSG’s decision,” which it labelled “wrong and discriminatory.”

They added that Duke administration has the “full authority to override DSG’s violation of university policies and ensure that SSI receives nothing less than the official recognition it deserves. If DSG’s infraction is not remedied right away, we intend to inform [the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR)] of Duke’s continuing breach of its legal obligation to protect Jewish and pro-Israel students from harassment and discrimination, and to ensure them the safe, welcoming and respectful environment that every Duke student deserves.”

(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)