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Israel-Hamas war spotlights increasing concerns over free speech on college campuses

Palestinian supporters gather for a protest at Columbia University. (Yuki Iwamura/AP)
Palestinian supporters gather for a protest at Columbia University. (Yuki Iwamura/AP)

College campuses across America are reeling from heightened tensions, protests and polarizing views in light of the Israel-Hamas war. Students are clashing in classrooms, getting doxxed for signing a statement of support of one side and facing harassment for their religious beliefs.

There’s also a growing movement in universities across the country to push back against the censorship and suspension of student groups Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).

In Florida, two separate SJP groups filed a lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s university system for blocking SJP from receiving school funds and using campus facilities.

Over at Brandeis, more than 500 alumni of the historically Jewish college are withholding donations over the university’s indefinite ban of its SJP chapter.

Hundreds of students across Columbia University are protesting the university’s decision to suspend SJP and JVP for the rest of the semester, and dozens of student organizations signed a manifesto from the Columbia University Apartheid Divest coalition, calling on the University to divest from Israel.

We speak with author and CEO of PEN America Suzanne Nossel about the discord that’s playing out on university campuses and how higher academia can address and resolve concerns over free speech on their campuses.

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