Updated, 3:25 a.m.
The placement and subsequent removal of a Students for Justice in Palestine banner on Barnard Hall advertising the groups annual Israeli Apartheid Week sparked debate about banner display policies and student groups rights to free expression.
The bannererected Monday and taken down Tuesday morning by Barnard administrators in response to pushback from studentsdisplayed the words Stand for Justice, Stand for Palestine and a drawing of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, without internal borders. Some students who said they were upset by the banner claimed that the lack of internal borders showed that SJP supports the elimination of the Israeli state, and that the banners prominent position on the building, next to a Barnard banner, implied the school endorsed such a position.
SJP, however, asserted that the banner was part of the groups right to free expression.
Columbia SJP is a student group at this universityno different from any other groupand has equal access to the same platforms and resources that are made available to all students. Barnard College students went through the necessary banner placement review process, which included clearly stating the banners message in advance, SJP said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. Had our request been rejected, it would have been an act of censorship and an infringement on our freedom of expression as a student group at this university. The fact that our banner has been taken down now is a direct violation of our freedom of expression.
The statement also said that the group was not informed of the banners removal by Barnard.
The pro-Israel student group LionPAC said that the removal of the banner was necessary to prevent confusion over Barnards position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It is a completely green map with no internal boarders, annihilating the existence of any Jewish state or the possibility of a two-state solution. The location of the banner makes it appear as if Barnard as a school is publicly endorsing SJPs message that Israel as a Jewish state does not have the right to exist, LionPAC said in a statement Tuesday. The banner was not taken down in order to suppress a particular political viewpoint, but rather to ensure that people feel comfortable walking into Barnard Campus and do not feel as if Barnard is endorsing SJPs message.
As scheduled for Israeli Apartheid week, which lasts until March 14, SJP had a display set up on Low Plaza Tuesday afternoon. SJP set up a banner that said, End Israeli Apartheid, while across College Walk LionPAC, Hillels Garin Lavi Student Center for Israel and Zionist Thought, and Columbias chapter of J Street U unfurled a banner that said, Be part of the solution, flanked by U.S. and Israeli flags.
Barnard Dean Avis Hinkson said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that it has been a long-standing policy to allow student groups to hang banners outside Barnard Hall promoting their events. But Hinkson acknowledged the concern about placing SJPs banner next to Barnards, and promised a reexamination of the banner policies.