By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
March 10, 2022
Students Supporting Israel, which had been denied recognition as an official campus club at Duke University last fall, has now been granted student organization status, but only after national free speech advocates and a U.S. senator called out the University for allowing discriminatory practices.
“I am so pleased to learn that this pro-Israel group has finally received recognition from Duke University – something they were previously denied,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
The ordeal began Nov. 15, 2021, just five days after the club was initially recognized. Reacting to an exchange on SSI social media in which a detractor of the club said Duke “promotes settler colonialism” because it recognized the group, Student Government President Christina Wang reversed the decision to recognize the club, and the Student Senate supported her veto.
Within two days, FIRE, which defends the individual rights of students and faculty members at American colleges and universities, sent a letter urging Duke Student Government to reinstate SSI.
“The possibility that SSI may disagree with other students in the future, even vehemently so, is not a reason to prevent recognition; instead, it is precisely the risk Duke undertakes when it promises its students freedom of expression,” FIRE officials wrote in the letter. The free speech group sent a second letter in December, this one to Duke’s administration asking it to ensure SSI was offered resources equivalent to those of recognized student organizations.
The University also heard from alumnus Rand Paul, the U.S. senator from Kentucky, who addressed his letter to Duke’s president Vincent E. Price.
“College should be a place of robust discourse, which all sides are given fair opportunity to voice their position. Denying a student group recognition based on personal or political differences weakens the legitimacy of any academic institution. More voices, more viewpoints, and more debate will always be beneficial to the student body,” wrote Paul, who graduated from Duke University’s Medical School in 1988.
Finally, late last month, the Student Senate took another vote, this time ruling unanimously that SSI is a sanctioned club.
According to FIRE, the recent ruling comes weeks after the Student Senate took part in an antisemitism training, but the training’s leaders said the training was not related to the Senate’s mistreatment of SSI. “I don’t think there is any story in history as heroic as that of the Jewish people. They have suffered tremendously, but God has also blessed them, as well as blessed the entire world through them,” the Rev. Creech said. “There is so much about Western culture that is owed to them. And where would we be without Jesus? Our Lord was a Jew. Israel holds a unique place in God’s economy, and any institution of higher learning that would hesitate to provide a club recognition because of its pro-Israel stance is evidence of deplorable ignorance unbecoming of a University.”