College Republicans Hassled For Supporting Israel At St. Cloud State University

College Republicans Hassled For Supporting Israel At St. Cloud State University: Tonight, I received an email from a reader asking for help getting out the word about an incident that occurred at St. Cloud State University. Here’s part of a press release sent out by the college Republicans at SCSU describing what happened…

“On December 11, 2002, the Saint Cloud State University College Republicans held a kiosk in the Atwood Memorial Center on the campus of Saint Cloud State University. The College Republicans held the kiosk as a means of showing our support for Israel in its fight against terrorism, as we felt that the pro-Israeli opinion is not often heard on campus.

The kiosk displayed a 39-page list of the names of all of those killed by terrorists from Jan 2002 through Oct 2002. It also included a display, which profiled some of the terrorist groups operating in and around Israel and Palestine and some literature that symbolized Israel’s right to defense and self-preservation. Above the kiosk flew a replica of the Israeli national colors.

Two professors approached the kiosk and said that because of their Jewish faith, they found the booth offensive. They specifically pointed to our display of a replica of the Israeli colors and said that because those of us at the kiosk were not Jewish we had no right to fly the Israeli flag.

During the ensuing debate, one of our members, Mr. Zach Spoehr, took a photograph of another College Republican member. One of the professors, Prof. Rona Karasik, told Mr. Spoehr that she would break his camera if he took her photo. Mr. Spoehr said he had not taken her picture and also said that Prof. Karasik has no right to break his camera. She then lunged for the camera and Mr. Spoehr backed away. She lunged for him a second time, grabbed him by the throat with both hands, and slammed him against the wall. I then escorted Mr. Spoehr away from the scene.

Mr. Spoehr has informed the Saint Cloud State University College Republicans that he has filed a complaint with the Saint Cloud Police Department. The College Republicans support Mr. Spoehr’s personal decision to do so.

A few minutes later, Dr. Nathan Church, VP for Student Life and Development, approached the kiosk and said that he “had to ask us to take down the flag” because some people were offended. He also reiterated the opinion that the College Republicans had no right to fly the Israeli flag because we were not Jewish ourselves.

We believe that Dr. Church left us no choice but to take down the flag. I personally argued our point, that forcing us to take down the flag was a violation of our first amendment rights, for close to 20 minutes. But Dr. Church would not back down. He said that he would like to take the flag to his office and that we could pick it up at the end of the afternoon. We convinced him to let us keep the flag, if we covered it up.”

So what do we have here? An assault by a teacher on a student and real censorship (forcing the students to take the flag down) based on the fact that some people were offended by the way these students were supporting Israel. The claim by the professors that they were angry because only Jews have the right to fly the Israeli flag is laughable on the face of it. Particularly in light of a recent lawsuit that SCSU just settled. After doing a bit of research, I ran across the following

“MINNEAPOLIS, Dec. 3, (2002) St. Cloud State University agreed today to pay nearly $365,000 to settle accusations of anti-Semitism among administrators and professors.”

The lawsuit was settled on December 3, 2002. Know when the press release from the college Republicans was sent out? December 13, 2002. So it took SCSU all of 10 days to get into another flap related to supporting of Jews. But wait, it gets better. This is from an article on the suit from back on October 17, 2001

“Three professors and a student plan to file a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday against St. Cloud State University and the entire MnSCU system, alleging that the school has done too little to deal with anti-Semitism on campus.

…St. Cloud State University and the MnSCU system are named in a lawsuit, alleging that SCSU faculty and administration have fostered an atmosphere of anti-Semitism on campus.

St. Cloud State has faced complaints of discrimination before, but this latest round began when Israeli-born history professor Arie Zmora was denied an opportunity for tenure and left the university last summer. Zmora had taught previously at Macalester College in St. Paul and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. But says he never felt anything like the two years of “pain and agony” he says he experienced in the history department at St. Cloud.

“Continuous references and ridicule of Jews, especially this horrendous reference to fumigation of offices; sympathy with Nazi Germany; continuous questioning of my religion – why Jews do not believe in Jesus,” Zmora recalled.

…This spring, the school commissioned a study by the Jewish Community Relations Council, which found what it called “an underlying environment of discrimination and bias against Jews at SCSU.”

…But attorney Judy Schermer says her most important goal is achieving court-ordered changes in the way the school handles bias complaints. To this end, the first step in the lawsuit is to seek class-action status – an assertion that everyone who is Jewish or has expressed sympathy for Jewish causes is subject to a hostile environment at St. Cloud State (Ed note: my emphasis).”

The Anti-Defamation League also mentions that there was “retaliat(ion) against non-Jewish faculty for opposing anti-Semitism.”

See? There’s where the College Republicans screwed up — non-Jews aren’t allowed to oppose anti-Semitism at SCSU. But what do you want to bet that no one supporting the Palestinians would have been forced to take down a Palestinian flag? It’s funny that we keep hearing stories related to anti-semitism on these left-wing college campuses isn’t it? How can that be when the left-wingers are the tolerant ones (so they say) and we Conservatives (you know, the people who were harassed for sticking up for Israel) are supposed to be the mean, nasty, closet racists?

***Update***: The The SCCUScholars blog has some updates on this situation.

Also, I’ve received word from a source close to the situation that, “The College Republicans will be receiving a formal, written apology from the Nathan Church the VP for Student Life and Development. Along with the apology, the statement will consist of a reaffirmation of student’s First Ammendment rights.”

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