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Court Backs Fordham in Barring Palestinian Rights Group

A New York State appellate court sided with Fordham University in its 2016 decision to deny recognition to a proposed Students for Justice in Palestine chapter on the grounds that the club would be polarizing. The decision reverses a ruling by a lower court ordering Fordham, a Roman Catholic college in New York, to recognize the club.

The appellate court found that one of the students who sued, who enrolled at Fordham after the club was rejected, lacked standing, while it said that the complaints of other students who had since graduated were moot.

“Even if we had found that standing exists and therefore had considered the merits of the petition, we would have concluded that the petition should not have been granted,” the court’s opinion continues.

The court found that Fordham “followed its approval procedure and acted ‘in the exercise of its honest discretion’ … [Fordham’s] conclusion that the proposed club, which would have been affiliated with a national organization reported to have engaged in disruptive and coercive actions on other campuses, would work against, rather than enhance, respondent’s commitment [to] open dialogue and mutual learning and understanding, was not ‘without sound basis in reason’ or ‘taken without regard to the facts.’”

A spokesman for Fordham, Bob Howe, said the university “is gratified that the court found Fordham followed its procedures in administering the student club approval process, and that Fordham had the right to not approve groups that were inconsistent with its mission.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights and Palestine Legal, legal organizations that represented the Fordham students in their complaint, criticized the appellate court decision and said they would seek review by New York’s highest court.

“In a hasty decision short on analysis, a New York appellate division court reversed a thorough, well-reasoned ruling by the trial court that Fordham University violated its own policies when it refused to recognize a Students for Justice in Palestine club,” the groups said. “This is a shameful decision giving Fordham cover to censor students who are calling for Palestinian rights.”

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