Letter: CCR Urges Barnard College President Debora Spar to Reconsider Decision to Remove Student Group Banner

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The Center for Constitutional Rights sent a letter to Barnard College President Debora Spar on March 13, 2014 urging her to reconsider her decision to remove a Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (C-SJP) banner advertising Israeli Apartheid Week events.

The letter advises President Spar that free speech principles require that messages not be treated differently based on the controversy they provoke.  Barnard College removed the banner the day after it was installed in response to some students’ complaints that they were offended by the banner’s message and its prominent placement in front of Barnard Hall.  The banner read “Stand for Justice, Stand for Palestine, C-SJP IAW” and had a hand-drawn map of historic Palestine, which is the logo for C-SJP.  CCR’s letter stresses that “the offense that some may feel about a political statement is not a justification to remove the banner where many others have hung in its place.”
 
To read the full letter, click here.

President Spar responded to our letter on March 14, 2014, explaining that the Barnard administration removed the C-SJP banner because its placement near the official Barnard College banner may have inadvertently implied the college’s endorsement. On March 25, 2014, CCR responded to President Spar, citing the college’s “long-standing tradition” of permitting student groups to hang banners, including those hung in the same location as C-SJP’s, and emphasizing the college’s swift and unprecedented decision to remove this banner within hours of receiving complaints about the content of the banner’s message. The letter respectfully requests that "Barnard College reconsider its decision to stop hanging student banners at Barnard Hall and that the College publicly apologize to C-SJP for the harm caused to the student group and its members by the College’s removal of their banner."

To read the full letter click here.