Washington University’s student union released a statement Monday labeling the student who stole flags for 9/11 from a memorial display—made possible by Young America’s Foundation’s 9/11: Never Forget Project—an “activist” who was engaging in “political protest.”
YAF reported Saturday that a member of student government was caught stealing flags from the display and stuffing them in trash bags. Another student, Nathaniel Hope, caught the vandal on video.
“Free speech and political protest are central tenets of higher education, and calls to attack and persecute activists attack the foundation of a free democracy,” the student union statement read.
The statement began by saying “SU was not involved in organizing or executing Fadel’s protest, and we do not endorse or condone his behavior.”
In the next part of the statement, however, they use much stronger language. “We also unequivocally condemn the Islamophobic rhetoric and slurs that have been used against him and other Muslim students on campus.”
It should be noted that the student union did not “unequivocally condemn” the theft and vandalism perpetrated by Alkilani. Instead the statement reads more like a defense of the act.
The student union concluded by saying “The other members of the executive board are discussing next steps.” As of now, it appears Alkilani has not been removed from the undergraduate student government at WashU.
In a statement released Sunday, WashU Chancellor Andrew D. Martin said, “I want to make it very clear that, as an institution, we find the actions of this student to be reprehensible. The removal of the flags impeded the ability of individuals to commemorate the lives lost on 9/11 and to process the trauma of that day. This act was seen as a personal affront by many, at WashU and beyond, and as an affront to the ideals of our institution. The 9/11 commemoration on Mudd Field was not just a memorial, it was also an act of speech. The free exchange of ideas is central to a vibrant university. It is a hallmark of our academic community, and it is imperative that everyone here is able to express their views in a respectful environment. Students have the right to express their viewpoints, but they also have the obligation to respect others’ expressions.”
“We are taking appropriate steps to investigate this incident and will follow our standard protocols as we do so. Such steps often take time. As we move forward, we will also ensure that the student involved has access to campus resources that are regularly available to students as he navigates the consequences of his actions, both on campus and beyond.”
Notably, the school has not addressed whether the student would face disciplinary measures.
It’s disturbing that the student union felt it more important to condemn supposed “Islamophobic rhetoric” than the destruction of a 9/11 memorial put on by their fellow classmates to honor the innocents murdered by radical Islamists on September 11. What’s even more disturbing is the rhetoric on free speech and expression, something Alkilani’s acts don’t qualify as. If neither the school nor the student union feel it necessary to take any action against Alkilani, it will be an extreme miscarriage of justice, a slap in the face to victims of 9/11, and a disservice to their students.
To voice your concern, contact Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Rob Wild at [email protected].