Dr Mike Evans

Duke University forced to recognize pro-Israel group after student government rejects it

The administration of North Carolina’s Duke University’s was forced to step in yesterday to offer official recognition to a pro-Israel student group, after the university’s student government rejected it.

The group, Students Supporting Israel, was originally approved by the student government. However, the group was soon rejected after a post on Instagram questioning “settler colonialism” by another student.

The university soon intervened with a statement regarding the matter. “To be clear, the actions of Duke Student Government are independent of, and not determined by or sanctioned by, the university. Nor does a lack of formal recognition by student government prevent students from organizing in groups as they wish; there are many organizations that continue to operate at Duke in different ways without such recognition, and the university has identified options for SSI to secure financial and programmatic support,” the statement noted.

The university affirmed its desire to fairly include all student groups and oppose all forms of antisemitism. “We want to take this opportunity to underscore our steadfast commitments to Duke’s Jewish community; to our shared values; to robust and open debate; to students’ rights to associate, including student self-governance; and to a campus free from racism and antisemitism,” it added.

The situation is not the first concern regarding antisemitism at Duke University. In 2020, the school agreed on a settlement with the US Department of Education regarding an allegation of antisemitism concerning the Zionist Organization of America.

Though Duke did not admit to wrongdoing, the university agreed to revise its discrimination policy to “provide a description of forms of antisemitism that can manifest in the university environment.” The matter involved the performance of an antisemitic song at a conference regarding Gaza in 2019.

Antisemitism at American universities has been growing in recent years. The Anti-Defamation League noted in 2021 that, “Antisemitic incidents peaked during the 2020-2021 academic year, reaching an all-time high of 244 incidents, even though many campuses were physically closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”