The University of Massachusetts Amherst is being sued by a group of students over its decision to host a pro-Palestinian event at the school on May 4.
The event, “Not Backing Down: Israel, Free Speech and the Battle for Palestinian Human Rights,” features former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters and activist Linda Sarsour. According to the Boston Herald, an emergency motion filed by the students’ lawyer, Karen Hurvitz, claims the plaintiffs “will suffer immediate and irreparable harm” if the event is allowed to proceed.
“These departments are basically sponsoring a hate-fest,” Hurvitz said. “They need to move this rally off campus and not sponsor it in any way.” She added that the event runs counter to the school’s “commitments to non-discrimination, intolerance and inclusion.”
A UMass spokesman declined to comment Thursday, adding they don’t comment on pending litigation.
In response to groups condemning the event, a university spokesman said Wednesday the forum is being presented by a private foundation that has rented space on campus. No university or taxpayer funds are being used to support the event.
“UMass Amherst is committed to fostering a community of dignity and respect and rejects all forms of bigotry,” the spokesman said in a statement. “The campus is also firmly committed to the principles of free speech and academic freedom.”
Departments sponsoring an event does not mean they’re endorsing the views, rather they’re endorsing “the exploration of complex and sometimes difficult topics,” he later added.
“The opinions expressed by participants at the May 4 event and other such events do not represent the views of the University,” the spokesman added. “And, as has been stated repeatedly, the University remains firmly opposed to academic boycotts of any kind, including BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement).”
“Not Backing Down” is sponsored by the UMass Amherst Department of Communication and the Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies.
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