Letter from the Anthropology Graduate Students about Banner Removal

March 14, 2014

The Administration
Barnard College
Columbia University

We are writing to you as concerned members of the Columbia University Anthropology Graduate Student Association, and as members of the Barnard and Columbia community. We are writing as students and scholars, who are committed to unrestricted political expression, to express our dismay at the removal of the Banner placed on the Barnard campus by the Barnard student group “Students for Justice in Palestine.”

We have carefully read your public statement that removing this banner is a matter of “revisiting policy.” Insofar as banners and forms of expression used by other campus student groups have not triggered any such policy revisions in the past, we are deeply concerned that this scrutiny is being reserved only for certain student groups, speaking on certain issues. This appears very clearly to be a discriminatory action on the part of Barnard administration. A university committed to free speech should not take such action, as it will be deeply damaging to the university’s moral standing in the world.

Dean Hinkson’s statement that the administration will “re-examine” its policy acknowledges that the university has enacted a total moratorium on one important form of political speech in direct response to a specific controversy. To place a moratorium – a blanket suppression of an important form of political speech – in order to quash a particular controversy is the definition of targeted suppression. As such, the Dean’s statement only compounds our dismay. It is a blatant contradiction to repress political speech, while simultaneously avowing a continued commitment to it.

We strongly urge the Barnard administration to recognize the danger this action poses to freedom of expression and equality on campus more broadly, and reverse this asymmetrically enforced blanket ban. We further ask for a candid explanation of what specific complaints were made that led to the banner removal.

This statement has been collectively authored and signed by the following graduate students in the Anthropology Department of Columbia University:

Aarti Sethi
Alison Tai Damick
Amani Ali Issa
Ana Miljanic
Anschaire Aveved
Antonia Mardones Marshall
Christopher James Santiago
Courtney Singleton
Deniz Duruiz
Easton Anspach
Erin Yerby
Fatima Mojaddedi
Fatima Tassadiq
Fernando Montero Castrillo
Gabriel Locke
Geoffrey Aung Myint
Hadeel Assali
Heba Zainab Islam
Hsiu-ju Stacy Lo
Jake Silver
Jasmine Pisapia
Joel Lee
Juan Carlos Mazariegos
Julia Fierman
Leslie Sabiston
Luciana Chamorro
Manuel Schwab
Marina Kaganova
Mark Mulder
Mary Birkett
Mirza Jaffer Abid
Naeem Mohaiemen
Natacha Nsabimana
Patrick Nason
Peter Lagerqvist
Samantha Fox
Seema Golestaneh
Sumayya Kassamali
Suzi Wilson
Syantani Chatterjee
Tamar Blickstein
Xenia Cherkaev
Yuliya Grindberg