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Palestinian rights group claims GW dropped alleged disciplinary charges against SJP, organizer

Tanner Nally | Photographer
Palestine Legal claimed that GW dropped the “vast majority” of charges allegedly filed against SJP and all charges against a student organizer in February.

A pro-Palestinian advocacy group claimed on Tuesday that officials dropped alleged disciplinary charges against Students for Justice in Palestine and a student organizer, claims that a University spokesperson deemed inaccurate.

Palestine Legal claimed in a statement that GW dropped the “vast majority” of charges that officials allegedly filed against SJP in February, as well as all charges allegedly filed against student organizer Lance Lokas the same month. A University spokesperson said Palestine Legal’s statement was “misleading” and “mischaracterizes” the current status of disciplinary proceedings involving SJP. 

In February, students claimed that officials brought a second wave of misconduct charges against SJP due to its alleged involvement in a coalition of pro-Palestinian student organizations that formed after SJP’s suspension for their projections onto Gelman Library in November. 

“As shared previously, the University determined that SJP’s actions in projecting multiple images on the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library on Oct. 24 violated university policies, and this determination has not changed,” the University spokesperson said in an email. 

At a protest in February, demonstrators alleged that officials told student organizations involved with the coalition that they would be sent to disciplinary proceedings for “unfounded” claims of misconduct on campus. The University spokesperson said officials will publish any subsequent findings of violations of GW policy and sanctions against student groups at the end of the semester, when the final decision is “rendered.” 

The University spokesperson said SJP remains restricted from posting material on campus through the end of the semester and is required to consult with “Student Life personnel” prior to holding on-campus events. The spokesperson added that the University does not comment on individual students, per federal privacy laws. 

“The students at GW have demonstrated that no amount of institutional repression can silence dissent over US support for this genocide and the call for Palestinian liberation,” Palestine Legal staff attorney Dylan Saba said in the statement. 

Palestine Legal did not return an immediate request for comment.

Officials initially suspended SJP from hosting and participating in on-campus events for at least 90 days in November after several members projected anti-Israel and anti-GW messages onto Gelman Library. At the time, the University said the demonstration violated the library’s usage guidelines — which prohibit any posters deemed offensive — and GW’s noncompliance policy because of members’ alleged refusal to comply with officials’ directions to stop the projections. 

In his opening statement at an alleged disciplinary hearing in late February, Lokas claimed that in November, officials placed him on disciplinary probation until the end of the semester and removed him from leadership in SJP. Lokas claimed officials charged him with noncompliance and a student conduct outcome violation. 

“I have complied with the sanctions placed on me to the best of my ability, removing myself from leadership in any student organization and participating in on-campus events as my sanctions allow,” Lokas said in the statement. “I firmly reject the charge laid against me of violating my student outcome decision.”

Lokas said in the statement he is not the only person to have faced “continued acts of political repression” and there has been a long history of GW community members targeted for speaking out in support of Palestinians.

Lokas referenced examples of the University allegedly censoring support for Palestinian students, including Ramie Abounaja, a former biomedical engineering student who was ordered by a GW Police Department officer to remove a Palestinian flag from his residence hall window in 2015. He also pointed to the Office of Advocacy and Support’s removal of an Instagram post offering a “virtual processing space” for Palestinian students following attacks in Gaza in 2021. 

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