Jewish students at Virginia Tech are raising their voice against an upcoming speech that is to be delivered by a known anti-semitic and anti-zionist speaker.
As it stands, Steven Salaita, a former professor at the University of Illinois and the Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the 2022 Graduate and Professional Student Senate Research Symposium (GPSS).
The problem with the keynote? Well, Salaita was removed from his tenured position at Illinois in 2014 after a series of anti-Semitic tweets were discovered. One of them, posted after three Jewish teenage boys were kidnapped and brutally murdered that year by Hamas, read: “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the f***ing West Bank settlers would go missing.”
President Emeritus of Hillel at Virginia Tech and a GPSS senator Briana Schwam said, “Steven Salaita does not promote respectful or healthy dialogue. [His] public statements threaten my identity as a student because he promotes hate and violence towards individuals who share my identity or who do not share his exact perspective.”
In response, students have started a petition to get the school to intervene, claiming that the student senate executive board has been unwilling to listen to those who, in Schwam’s words, “disagree with their decisions or have a different point of view.
In response to the complaints, the senior associate vice president for university relations, said: “Our Principles of Community reject all forms of prejudice and discrimination and value human diversity, yet it also recognizes the importance of free expression. At moments like this, we support open expression within a climate of civility and mutual respect and strive to create an open and inclusive environment where all individuals feel safe and respected.”
As it stands, this is not the first time that the student senate has acted against the interest of pro-Israel and Jewish students. The school passed a BDS measure last semester creating a hostile climate on campus, especially for Jewish graduate students.