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Palestinian Solidarity Statement Restored

June 10, 2021

Pennsylvania State University’s African American studies department has reissued a statement expressing solidarity with Palestinians after having initially taken the statement down in response to inquiries from a dean.

Cynthia A. Young, head of Penn State's African American studies department, previously wrote on the department's website that she took down the statement after receiving an “email from the dean telling me that the provost’s office had received queries about our Palestine solidarity statement, specifically whether it represented the views of the entire African American Studies department.”

“To better answer such queries, the dean asked me to describe our process for gauging consensus on the statement,” wrote Young. “I relayed our process, and the dean responded that it wasn’t sufficiently democratic. Though no faculty have dissented, he asked me to list the individual faculty who supported the statement, rather than simply attributing it to ‘Penn State’s African American Studies Department.’ I responded that I felt doing so would put my faculty at risk. However, the dean would prefer that the statement be attributed to ‘the undersigned faculty.’ In light of the dean’s ‘counsel,’ I have elected to take the statement down.”

The department’s statement is now back up, along with an accompanying statement noting “that our statement has been subject to a different level of administrative scrutiny, unprecedented for our department.”

“There is a name for this kind of scrutiny: The Palestine Exception,” the departmental statement says. “Palestine Legal recently issued a report on the uses of bureaucratic interventions and procedural obfuscation to censor speech about Palestine from 2014 to the present. It is difficult to disagree with collective bodies who publicly denounce settler-colonialism and apartheid, especially amid a spectacle of racialized and gendered violence. It proves more feasible to quietly remove the power to make public statements by inventing new rules. We affirm our capacity as a department to make collective statements in support of a free Palestine and invite other African American Studies departments to do the same.”

A Penn State spokesman previously said the university “recognizes that faculty have the right to express their own individual or collective views; however, it should be clear that they are not speaking for the institution.”

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Elizabeth Redden

Elizabeth Redden, Senior Reporter, covers general higher education topics, religion and higher education, and international higher education for Inside Higher Ed. She has more than a decade of experience as an education journalist. She holds an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing from Columbia University.

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