Last week was “Israeli Apartheid Week” on the campus of Marquette University.
Officially hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine and the Marquette University Student Government, school administrators are distancing themselves from the event, despite acknowledging the school funded travel and other expenses for a radical anti-Israel cleric.
The backpedal follows a late-February email to Marquette University political science faculty and staff. In the email, first reported on the Milwaukee-based blog Marquette Warrior, John Janulis, coordinator for Intercultural Engagement in the school’s Office of Student Development, announced “a series of programs focusing on Israeli apartheid and Palestinian awareness.”
Vice President for Student Affairs Chris Miller told MW school officials did not support the event. “It is purely student sponsored,” Miller said.
Echoing that denial, Terence Miller, director of the Office of International Education, told Watchdog.org that his department did not sponsor the program, and its “only involvement was sponsoring the travel of Archbishop Theodosius Hanna of Sebatia,” a featured speaker of the program.
That may be small comfort to those who know that Archbishop Hanna, a Greek Orthodox leader who lives in Jerusalem, is an outspoken critic of Israel – so harsh a critic that, in supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he has said the Syrian opposition is an “extension of Zionism and (serves) its racist projects and suspicious agendas in the region.”
Serving as travel agent for Hanna might be seen as problematic, given that Marquette, though a private university, receives substantial federal funding. A Watchdog review of Marquette’s IRS form 990 for tax year 2011 reveals the school received over $24 million in government grants, fees and contracts.
MUSG provided $5,000 for speakers’ travel and food, as well to assist in promoting the program. The organization stands by its support of the event, but does not endorse the “apartheid” accusation.
“SJP is a recognized student group that went through the process of obtaining financial support for their event,” said newly elected MUSG President Kyle Whelton. “Some of our senators did object to the use of the word ‘apartheid,’ but it was deemed a free speech issue and was approved. MUSG’s granting of funds is not an endorsement of the views expressed by a particular recognized student organization.”
Whelton told Watchdog that MUSG is funded by a “Student Activity Fee” that is “segregated” from university funds. He said the committee that reviews applications for student funds does not have a vetting process for student group speakers.
Marquette Jewish Student Union President Dylan Elhai told Watchdog it’s likely her group’s early protests led the university to back away from its public sponsorship.
“We are concerned that what was presented is not a well-rounded view of the facts of the conflict,” said Elhai. Asked about panelists participating in the program, she replied, “SJP has a right to have anyone they want come to their event.”
The JSU is hosting a “Speaker Series” about Israelis and Palestinians featuring Marquette University professor and alumnus Tim Crain.