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Vanderbilt multicultural council rejects pro-Israel student group

‘Antithetical’ to the ‘Palestinian cause’

The Vanderbilt Multicultural Leadership Council denied a pro-Israel student group a spot in its organization back in March, but some members just recently opened up to the student paper about their reasons for voting “nay.”

According to The Hustler, Students Supporting Israel was rejected by the Vandy MLC, the only group to receive a majority “nay” vote — 76 percent — of 11 organizations that applied this spring semester.

One other group was denied membership, the Vanderbilt United Mission for Relief and Development, but it fell just shy of the two-thirds majority required for acceptance, getting 60 percent of votes in favor.

Both groups were the only MLC rejections “in at least the past few years,” MLC President Zack Maaieh said.

Groups that were accepted included Jewish Voice for Peace at Vanderbilt, the Vanderbilt Iranian Student Association, and Vanderbilt Pride Serve.

According to its constitution, the MLC is an “’umbrella organization’ of Vanderbilt’s social justice, identity-based and multicultural student organizations.”

Various MLC members admitted that the denial of SSI’s membership was due to it being “antithetical” to the “Palestinian cause.” As such, the SSI does not want to work “toward unity” and “does not truly want to collaborate with other student groups.”

A member of the Jewish Voice for Peace noted they voted “nay” due to SSI being a “secular” organization; however, so is Vandy’s Students for Justice in Palestine — which is a member of the MLC.

The JVP member added that SSI’s “pitch” to join the MLC was “unconvincing.”

MORE: Vanderbilt student arrested and expelled for role in anti-Israel sit-in has ties to White House

An executive board member of the Association of Latin American Students was particularly outspoken against SSI, saying the group doesn’t have “a culture or an identity” because it “support[s] a nation-state built on the ideology of political Zionism.”

The ALAS member also alleged accepting SSI would have “obstructed” the Multicultural Leadership Council from being a “safe space” for other member groups.

“I think if a lot of the organizations do not support Israel, I really think there’s a very clear disconnect [between SSI and the MLC] that just isn’t necessarily compatible,” the ALAS member said.

Students Supporting Israel President Maya Robin called the vote against her group “’blatant’ antisemitism and ‘political.’”

Referring to Zionism as a Jewish value, Robin said the MLC’s rejection of Vanderbilt SSI wrongly obstructs Jewish students from conversations about diversity and multicultural spaces due to their religion. She stated that this alleged discrimination contradicts the MLC’s mission.

“Rejecting SSI from the MLC constitutes denying Jewish group membership based on their core religious belief,” Robin said. “Space for diversity, inclusion, and cross-cultural engagement on campus should not be gatekept for a select few, but rather welcoming to a wide range of perspectives and experiences.”

MLC President Maaieh said SSI could reapply for admittance to the council; however, he noted SSI would “need to appeal to every member organization and board member that has a vote.”

Earlier this year the MLC put out a “Statement on Vanderbilt’s Response to Gaza” which noted it “stands with the Palestinians and their right for liberation from years of settler-colonialism and apartheid.”

MORE: Vanderbilt launches $17 million faculty DEI initiative


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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.