Tufts University’s anti-Semitic judicial committee

As it stands, Tufts University must not go forward with the proposed referendum on campus police participation in counterterrorism and security training in the State of Israel. This reckless proposal, aside from being problematic in the bigoted and anti-Semitic rhetoric promoted by its sponsors, falls afoul of a number of violations of the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Constitution of April 23, 2013, which remains binding for initiatives of this nature. The violations are so serious as to demand intervention by the university administration. The violations are as follows:

Violation 1: The referendum proceedings took place in repeated contravention of the process mandated in the TCU Constitution.

The TCU Constitution’s Article VIII clearly provides that “Members of the TCU may initiate referenda to amend this Constitution or to force the TCU Senate to perform according to the student’s wishes.” However, a strict procedure must be followed, which has not been utilized in this instance.

Article VIII, Section A, Clause 2 allows for the Committee on Student Life (CSL) to “examine the wording of the referendum to ensure that it does not conflict with university policy or any federal or state law(s).” Article VIII, Section A, Clause 3 provides that the TCU Judiciary (TCUJ) shall examine the wording of the referendum question to ensure that it is worded in a fair manner. Neither of these things occurred, and instead Students for Justice in Palestine (“SJP”) began collecting signatures before the language could be approved by the TCUJ and CSL.

TCU Constitution Article VIII, Section A, Clause 4 provides that “A petition with signatures of 250 members of the TCU must be collected and presented to the TCUJ to initiate the process by which the referendum shall be voted on by the TCU.” Signatures collected were never counted or verified by the TCUJ, as required by the constitution.

Most importantly, TCU Constitution Article VIII, Section A, Clause 5 requires that  the Elections Committee (ECOM) “shall ensure that the petition is valid prior to the day of the vote.” This was not achieved as the signatures were never collected per the process constitutionally outlined.

Violation 2:  The TCU Senate worked with SJP to force the referendum through the TCU Judiciary, violating the separation of powers and ignoring the process laid out in the constitution.

The TCU Constitution does not provide for a role for the TCU Senate in the referendum process once the language is sent to the TCUJ. Given that the Senate is tasked with carrying out the results of a referendum, a serious breach of the separation of powers occurs when the Senate usurps the role of other TCU institutions. Here, Members of the TCU Senate attempted to pressure members of the TCUJ to rush the referendum process without due process.

Members of the TCU Senate Executive board threatened to recall members of the TCUJ should they not agree to the proposed referendum language and timeline for approval. The TCU Senate president showed up, uninvited, to a private TCUJ meeting to express their hope that the referendum would move quickly on behalf of SJP. Raising significant alarm among Jewish students of the classic anti-Semitic “dual loyalty” canard, Members of the TCU Senate Executive attempted to pressure the only Jewish member to recuse themselves from the vote on the grounds that the member’s Jewish identity made them biased.

Violation 3: The Elections Committee (ECOM) failed to follow the proper procedures in the TCU constitution for conducting elections by failing to provide public notice of the referendum no later than nine (9) academic days within the date of the vote, and by failing to make the full question easily accessible to the student body starting at the time of public notice, as is constitutionally required.

According to the TCU Constitution Article IV Section E (emphasis added):

Public notice of all referenda and other non-candidate elections must occur no later than nine (9) academic days before the day of the vote. The full question, including constitutional amendment language if applicable for such a ballot item, must be easily accessible to the student body starting at the time of public notice, and all advertising must reference where such information can be accessed.

Despite this clear requirement, the referendum language for the SJP Deadly Exchange was not finalized as of Friday, November 20th, when the election was scheduled for Tuesday, November 24th. The referendum language was not “easily accessible to the student body” as it was not approved in the timeframe laid out by the TCU constitution.

Violation 4: The ECOM failed to hold a constitutionally required public forum about the referendum and candidates at least two days before the beginning of the voting period.

Article VIII Section A Clause 5 states: Upon approval of the petition by the TCUJ, ECOM shall be charged by the TCUJ to organize and conduct a referendum within 14 days of the petition’s approval. ECOM shall also arrange a forum for discussion no fewer than 2 days before the referendum.”

Despite this clear language, no required public forum was arranged by ECOM until the evening of Monday, November 23rd, less than 24 hours before voting was scheduled to begin on Tuesday, November 24th at 12 pm.

Supporters of the anti-Israel referendum are in multiple violations of the TCU Constitution’s procedures for holding free and fair elections. Just as seriously, the drive to hold the referendum has been accompanied by serious incidents of anti-Semitism, including the fact that an online magazine published by he referendum’s sponsor, Tufts SJP, earlier this year focusing on police exchange programs between the U.S. and Israel alleged that “Jewish people [are] taught at a young age to unabashedly support Israel’s settler-colonial practices, or worse, join the IDF.” The magazine also included a drawing with the caption “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free[,]” a well known maximalist Palestinian slogan that calls for the complete annihilation of the Jewish state (I.e., no Jewish presence between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea).”

If Tufts holds a referendum under these rushed, unconstitutional, and spurious circumstances, any results will be devoid of meaning. For the sake of fairness, decency, and human dignity, Tufts should step in and call off this outrageously unconstitutional referendum, whose sole goal is to stigmatize Jews, Jewish students at Tufts, and the Jewish state.

About the Author
Iraq War Vetern and Author of Always a Solider