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Jewish advocates continue call for sanctions against CUNY law school

‘[T]he ABA has lost its way, capitulating to a mob mentality that does not concern itself with compliance with the law, legal or other ethical standards’

The American Bar Association said it will consider complaints about allegations of antisemitism at a New York law school following criticism from a Jewish advocacy group.

It is the latest part of an ongoing battle between Jewish advocates, the City University of New York School of Law, and the ABA.

The group Students, Alumni, and Faculty for Equality on Campus has repeatedly pressed the ABA to investigate the City University of New York School of Law for seven months now. The group alleges CUNY law school is not properly confronting antisemitism on campus and should either lose accreditation or be forced to change.

Its complaints go back to at least 2022, however.

“Once a proud body that upheld the standards of legal education to the highest degree, the ABA has lost its way, capitulating to a mob mentality that does not concern itself with compliance with the law, legal or other ethical standards,” S.A.F.E. Campus wrote in an email to the ABA on December 17.

The original complaint, filed with the ABA Council on Legal Education, alleged a “now proven and university-admitted active implementation of that [Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions] policy.” The College Fix reviewed a copy of the complaint.

The complaint alleges the policy “blatantly discriminates against students, prospective students, faculty and employees, and prospective faculty and employees on the basis of ethnicity, religion, and nationality.”

After receiving unsatisfactory answers, S.A.F.E. Campus asked for an outside party to investigate the ABA.

“We believe that the Council (and the ABA) upholding illegal discriminatory practices is itself discriminatory behavior and that the Council violated ABA procedures to do so,” the group wrote in a Jan. 4 email reviewed by The Fix. “Only an impartial party can determine whether our allegations have merit. “

William Adams, a managing director with the ABA, told the group it would “ask the Council to reconsider its decision in light of your allegation that the disposition of your complaint was mishandled and to consider your new claim that Rule 45 is applicable.”

Rule 45 requires the Council on Legal Education to regularly review complaints received about law schools, according to the ABA’s guidelines.

“It will next meet in February,” Adams said in early January.

Jeffrey Lax (pictured), a CUNY law professor who leads S.A.F.E. Campus, told The Fix the ABA “gave in a bit here” in reference to looking further into the group’s complaints.

A spokesperson for the ABA declined to comment on the accreditation process and pointed The Fix to the ABA Standards book. The spokesperson said more updates may come out after the Council on Legal Education meets next month.

The BDS resolution that sparked the June complaint details concerns with CUNY law school’s investments and policies.

These include how “CUNY has a history of censoring, repressing, harassing, and surveilling Palestine solidarity activists, including current CUNY Law students and co-sponsors of this resolution,” and that “CUNY offers food and beverage products for purchase on campus that are notorious for violating Palestinian human rights, including PepsiCo and Sabra Hummus.”

The resolution then resolved with various policies that were adopted by the Faculty Council and therefore the CUNY School of Law, including the endorsement of the Palestinian-led BDS movement and a demand for CUNY to end all Israeli exchange programs. The resolution also demanded the law school cut all ties with “organizations that repress Palestinian organizing.”

In addition to the resolution, the complaint also referenced comments made by student speaker Fatima Mohammed in her graduation speech on May 12, 2022 that were later called “hate speech” by the chancellor and the CUNY board of trustees.

This led S.A.F.E. Campus to argue a violation of ABA standards.

Some of the other standards referenced are “Standard 205: Non-Discrimination And Equality Of Opportunity,” Standard 206 which, “prohibit[s] a law school from discriminating against students and employees based on ethnicity,” and Standard 405 that “prescribes that law schools shall establish [an] academic freedom policy,” according to the complaint.

A university spokesperson declined to comment to The Fix, and instead linked to a 2022 statement by Chancellor Matos Rodriguez that criticized both BDS and Mohammed’s speech.

MORE: ‘Zionists must die,’ Cornell student says, prompting investigation

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About the Author
Jonathan Draeger-- University of Wisconsin, Madison