Free speech group calls on university not to investigate student
A Cornell University student who formerly interned for the White House is under investigation for posting “ZIONISTS MUST DIE” on Instagram.
“Cornell Police and the Office of Student Conduct are investigating and if we determine that it was posted by a member of the Cornell community, they will be held fully accountable and appropriately sanctioned,” President Martha Pollack stated on Jan. 11. “This post is heinous, and I condemn it in the strongest terms.”
Maria Valdez, a government and Africana studies major, posted the statement on Instagram, according to screenshots posted by StopAntisemitism.
Valdez posted the comments in response to a video about the son of an Al Jazeera journalist being killed by an Israeli air strike.
“ZIONISTS MUST DIE! And if you think this statement is [antisemitic] then you are stupid because zionists and jews are not the same, you would say the nazis need to die then why [don’t] you say the same thing to zionists,” she wrote.
Valdez is also a “a minor in Latino/a studies” and “hope[s] to follow a path on politics and social justice to help improve the conditions of many communities across the country,” according to her LinkedIn, which has since been deleted.
She also is a former intern for the Biden-Harris administration, working there during the spring semester in 2023. She later worked for the National Science Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Cornell University – yet another troubling incident as student Maria Lima Valdez allegedly posted “Zionists must die” on her Instagram story.
President Martha Pollack sent out a communication to students yesterday stating police are investigating.
If true, expulsion and… pic.twitter.com/JugpmoUwPd
— StopAntisemitism (@StopAntisemites) January 12, 2024
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression criticized Cornell’s investigation into Valdez.
“Punishing clearly protected political speech is foreclosed by Cornell’s clear commitment to upholding student free speech rights, even when some consider the views expressed to be offensive or hateful,” the group wrote in a Jan. 17 letter to the New York university. “Cornell cannot keep its promise to respect students’ expressive freedoms if it also punishes Valdez.”
FIRE also wrote “calls for genocide that do not constitute unprotected true threats or discriminatory harassment remain protected by the First Amendment standards Cornell incorporates into its free speech policies.”
The letter asked Cornell to uphold its past promises in support of free speech.
Senior Program Officer Zach Greenberg provided further comments in a media statement sent to The Fix.
“Punishing clearly protected political speech is foreclosed by Cornell’s clear commitment to upholding student free speech rights, even when some consider the views expressed to be offensive or hateful,’ Greenberg stated. “Cornell cannot keep its promise to respect students’ expressive freedoms if it also punishes Valdez.”
Universities have been confronting anti-Israel comments since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, 2023. The presidents of Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania both resigned following apathetic responses to a Congressional hearing on antisemitism. Former Harvard president Claudine Gay also faced criticism for nearly 50 instances of alleged plagiarism.
An official Cornell summer program, the Philosophy of Law Undergraduate Summer School, recently stated it “unequivocally and irrevocably condemns the advancing, unchecked Zionist violence against Palestinians by the state of Israel,” as reported earlier this week by The College Fix.
Students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee also are demanding the school honor the “martyrs of Palestine” and scrub the name of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir off the school’s library, as reported today by The College Fix.
IMAGES: Maria Valdez/Linkedin; Instagram