In Protests

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Clips from a pair of recordings posted by the Student Coalition for Palestine at GWU on Friday appear to show University President Ellen Granberg saying she wished she could expel students who engaged in certain types of pro-Palestinian speech — clips that a GW spokesperson said distorted Granberg’s message.

A series of clips apparently from an audio recording of a November fundraiser in New York City depicted Granberg saying she wanted to punish students who engaged in certain, unspecified types of student expression, but she could not because such punishment would violate GW policy. Another set of videos showed a private conversation earlier this month between Granberg and unseen students in which Granberg said GW is a “free-speech community” that does not censor expression — Granberg did not appear to be aware of the recording.

“But I can’t promise you that expulsion will happen for a particular item here at this session,” Granberg said at the November event. “I wish I could, honestly.”

The student coalition did not immediately return a request for comment or release unedited recordings of the event or conversation. The Hatchet could not independently verify the authenticity of the recordings.

University spokesperson Julia Metjian said the coalition, Jewish Voice for Peace at GWU, GW Black Defiance, GW Students Against Imperialism and GW Dissenters spliced audio and video from two different events and “falsely accuses” Granberg of wishing to promise expulsion for speech. Metjian said Granberg does not believe students should be expelled for exercising freedom of expression, which she said is “clear” when viewing the entire recordings.

“GW is committed to freedom of speech in and out of the classroom; however, we expect speech to be accurate, true and free from manipulation,” Metjian said in an email.

In the clips of the audio of Granberg’s fundraising event, Granberg said it is “painful” to see “what is going on” at colleges across the country, then saying she doesn’t believe policing student speech is “the answer.”

Some alumni and donors have called for the expulsion of members of Students for Justice in Palestine, the group that sparked outcry in October after projecting anti-Israel messages onto the facade of Gelman Library, which some deemed antisemitic. Officials would later suspend SJP.

“Would that be something that, say, the FBI would arrest someone for?” Granberg said at the event. “And if the answer is no, then it’s not a speech that GW can punish. And I really wish it were.”

At a Faculty Senate meeting earlier this month, Granberg said attendees of the New York City event — which was intended for Granberg to meet with alumni and donors as part of her GW Together initiative — gave her “feedback” regarding the University’s responses to the Israel-Hamas war. An attendee at the Nov. 16 event in New York City said multiple people interrupted her speech to criticize her response to the war and SJP’s projections onto Gelman Library in October, according to a Jewish Insider report.

The attendee said University leaders created an environment that tolerates antisemitism and the celebration of terrorism, the report states.

In a message to the GW community the day after the projections, Granberg said the projections — which generated pushback from alumni and members of Congress, who called for an investigation into the demonstration and expulsion of the students involved — were antisemitic and did not adhere to University policies.

Officials suspended SJP for at least 90 days last month in response to the projections, citing violations of the Gelman Building Use Guidelines and the University’s noncompliance policy. A coalition of pro-Palestinian student organizations formed after SJP’s suspension has since led multiple campus demonstrations and written a letter calling on Granberg to reinstate SJP and apologize for racist and Islamophobic language used against the organization.

“President Granberg thinks she can slander Palestinian students behind closed doors, but we won’t let her get away with it,” the coalition said in the Instagram post.

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