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ABC Releases Statement in Favor of SJP

the banner

the banner

ABC just came out with a statement of unanimous support for SJP’s recent actions regarding Barnard’s banner policy and the “opaque and arbitrary treatment of student groups” by the Columbia/Barnard administration. The statement involves discussion of student groups’ role on campus, the administration’s supposed role in helping those student groups, and the policies involving group banners and other displays on prominent places like Barnard Hall. That’s the gist, but you should read the full statement below, emphasis ours:

The Activities Board at Columbia is the largest governing board at Columbia University, representing over 150 student groups ranging from pre-professional, academic, engineering, competition, cultural, performance, musical, media, publication, and special interests groups.

While Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is not a group governed by the ABC, the ABC is unequivocally opposed to the opaque and arbitrary treatment of all student groups by administrators. Columbia’s infamous bureaucracy may divide Columbia’s student groups into different governing structures, but our student groups are united in their vulnerability to administrative injustice. As a governing board constitutionally and morally bound to serve the interests of our groups, we believe that rectifying the wrongs committed against one student group is crucial to protecting the rights of all our groups and their members in the future.

Furthermore, the recent recognition and funding of the ABC by Barnard for the first time in history increases our stake in participating in the discussion over the Barnard administration’s removal of SJP’s banner from Barnard Hall, and the future of Barnard’s policy regarding student groups’ access to this unique forum of discussion.

As the situation stands, despite the fact that SJP did not break a single policy leading up to the placement of their banner, the Barnard administration removed SJP’s banner without notifying SJP of its reasoning, or even the fact that the banner was being removed overnight. The Barnard administration’s treatment of SJP is an unreasonable silencing of a group’s right to free speech that runs against their own established policies.

The ABC supports SJP’s efforts to get their banner reinstated, as we believe the actions of President Spar and the Barnard administration are indicative of a dangerous mindset that threatens the fair and transparent treatment of all student groups. Just as student groups have a responsibility to follow established rules and preserve the integrity of their school, we believe that the school also has a duty to preserve the integrity of its student groups and its students. This commitment, so integral to community development, was not kept.

We believe that the sort of mistreatment experienced by SJP causes student groups to feel marginalized and unsupported by the administration in times of controversy. This should not be, as student groups are undoubtedly the strongest and most vibrant sources of community spirit here at Columbia University. While keeping groups accountable and responsible for their actions is necessary for a healthy community, student groups should not grow to perceive administrators as distant and apathetic antagonists. Instead, student groups should view administrators as fair partners sharing the same goal: making their beloved school even better.

We understand that the decision was difficult and was made in a high pressure environment. But the fact of the matter is that the way in which SJP and their banner was treated was simply wrong. We believe that President Spar also feels that the situation could have been handled better, as she wrote in her op-ed for the Spectator, “I wish we had had the opportunity to notify the leadership of SJP before the banner’s removal on that Tuesday morning.” That Tuesday morning may have passed, but she still has the opportunity right now to apologize to SJP for the regrettable way in which the administration took down the banner. We encourage President Spar and the Barnard administration to utilize this valuable opportunity, and move forward in cultivating an environment of respect and clear communication between administrators and all student groups.

Furthermore, the ABC recommends that the Barnard administration includes student groups and governing boards in the discussions regarding the future of the banner policy. Ultimately, a school exists for its students, and it will be students who play the biggest role in developing the community. Therefore, it only makes sense to make policy decisions with student input.

Finally, while our main concern is with the unfair way in which SJP was treated, the ABC also hopes that the administration preserves the original policy, which SJP followed. Permitting the placement of banners in front of Barnard Hall is not an implied endorsement of a particular groups’ values. Rather, it is Barnard’s explicit endorsement of all student groups’ right to express and exchange their ideas on the most visible area of the academic institution that they revere.

Tony Lee, President

Nikhil Krishnan, Vice President

Ayo Akira Yoshida-Are, Treasurer

Sunpreet Singh, Secretary

Radhika Gupta, Dance Groups Representative

Matt Kim, Musical Performance Groups Representative

Ben Xue, Theater Performance Groups Representative

Eberechi Ihezie, Black, Latino, and Native American Groups Representative

Steve Kwon, East Asian Groups Representative

Sahil Sud, South Asian and Pacific Islander Groups Representative

Saaket Pradhan, European and Middle Eastern Groups Representative

Jared Greene, Academic Groups Representative

Matthew Sheridan, Engineering Groups Representative

Albert Pan, Pre-Professional Groups Representative

Keenan Lamar Burton Sessoms, Media Groups Representative

Christine Byun, Publication Groups Representative

Hamza Khan, Special Interests Groups Representative

Christopher So, Director of Technology

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  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous If the banner is fully green, implying a singular Palestinian state taking over all of Israel, then why the fuck does it include the Golan Heights in the north-east?

    1. ? says:

      @? umm, it doesn’t include the Golan Heights. But your comment makes no sense anyway.

  • This is america says:

    @This is america Stop sympathizing with errorists

  • anon says:

    @anon Honestly this would all be over if we just nuked Hamas and let those damn terrorists just die.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Lets play a game called: troll or asshole?

  • Not your place says:

    @Not your place ABC this is not your battle. As you said, SJP is not within your jurisdiction, and you are a governing board that funds Columbia groups.

    Leave this issue to Barnard administration and Barnard governing boards.

    You have the right to voice your opinions but don’t be so self-important as to say “we are morally and constitutionally bound to make this statement”…

    1. um pt. 2 says:

      @um pt. 2 Also give Debora Spar the respects she deserves and call her President Spar. The title of Dean for the head of Barnard was tossed out ages ago.

      1. Tony Lee says:

        @Tony Lee Hi,

        Thanks for pointing out the mistake in title. I apologize, but I can tell you that we meant no disrespect.

        With regards to your other point, like we mention in our statement, Barnard decided to fund and recognize the ABC, and all ABC groups are now able to program on Barnard’s campus. The reason that change took place is because ABC groups had a large number of Barnard students on their board, as you might know. Just like how SGB groups could have booked that space, ABC groups should be able to book that space as well. That being the case, I think we do have an interest in getting involved about how the issue plays out. This was very recent and honestly not a lot of people paid attention to it based on the number of comments in the article that came out last year, so I hope I made our position a bit clearer.

        While I was writing the statement, I was worried that people might perceive the “constitutionally and morally bound” part to sound self-important. But to be fair, I actually think we are constitutionally and morally bound. Our constitution says we operate on behalf of our groups, so we wanted to ground our involvement in our legal commitment to our groups so that people wouldn’t think that ABC was butting in where we shouldn’t be. Also, considering that we sympathize with SJP for what happened to them since they were unfairly treated, we thought it was a moral issue. But I regret that I made it harder for you to read.

  • Greg Tedesco says:

    @Greg Tedesco Um…I thought this was about Sarah Jessica Parker

  • um says:

    @um president spar

    1. Tony Lee says:

      @Tony Lee Thanks for pointing it out, that’s my mistake. I’ll ask Bwog to correct it. Hopefully it didn’t damage the message we were trying to send out too much, as it was an honest mistake.

  • dead horse says:

    @dead horse Ow! Seriously this is borderline abuse

    1. Tony Lee says:

      @Tony Lee Better late than never when it comes to doing the right thing!

      But also, about the issue being a dead horse, I think people might think differently after reading this op-ed written by Dean Spar herself a few days ago.

      I was personally very concerned about the unapologetic administrative mindset that I saw and how that would affect student groups forward.

      Also, there are a lot of statements out there, but I think the content of our message is a bit different in that we focus more on administrative accountability and transparency and that we would like for Dean Spar to apologize to SJP, which she didn’t do in her op-ed. Personally speaking, I think that if she could communicate with the people that were told to take down the banner, surely the administration could have sent an email to SJP at least. It’s a principle thing, and we’re really concerned about administrators’ sacrificing the integrity of student groups in times of controversy and how that is really terrible for community development as it creates a rift between groups and administrators.

      But I think you’re right to point out a sense of lateness in our statement, because I really regret that the ABC didn’t release a message of support sooner. The last few weeks were a very unorganized time due to midterms, spring break, and eboard elections for the ABC in the last few weeks, but I should have brought this to a vote as soon as the event took place. I take full responsibility for that lapse. But hopefully with Dean Spar’s article and the prominence of student governance right now with elections (although people might be annoyed rather than happy about that), this could be a good time to keep the conversation going.

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