A San Diego State student proposal for a summit to discuss slavery reparations sparked controversy when the list of proposed speakers included accused anti-Semites.
Four students in the Joint Ph.D. Program in Education received awards funded by the Student Success Fund that is designated to create programming to improve the experience of black students at SDSU, according to the newsletter released by the College of Education.
Education doctoral student Terry Sivers applied for a $68,000 award from the Student Success Fee to convene a summit discussing the issues of slavery and reparations. Sivers invited political and economic leaders to speak at the event. However, the list of proposed speakers includes the alleged anti-Semitic speaker, Ava Muhammad.
The Anti-Defamation League recognized Muhammad’s anti-Semitic comments in 2017 at a Nation of Islam panel. The league is a Jewish organization dedicated to stopping the defamation and securing justice and fair treatment of Jewish people, according to their website.
At the panel, Muhammad referred to Jews as “Godless,” and started, “We will be free of this bloodsucking parasite so they will no longer be able to sell us alcohol, drugs, depraved sex, and every other type of low-life thing that is keeping us from hereafter,” in a panel response.
This student-led event hasn’t been fully vetted. School officials said the proposed speakers are not confirmed to speak at the university.
SDSU released a statement that the student has decided to revise the content of the program and the previously listed speakers will not be confirmed to speak at the event.
“The university supports the student’s decision,” the statement said. “The student’s proposed speaker list previously included those who have espoused anti-Semitic rhetoric in the past. We strongly reject anti-Semitic, and other disparaging messages and actions. SDSU will offer support to the student organizer to ensure that the original basis for the event — a critical exploration of slavery and reparations — can proceed.”
Jewish studies sophomore Sophie Parker, who practices the religion, voiced her concerns about the presence of Muhammad on campus. She said she found out about the speakers through a news story that her mom forwarded to her on Facebook.
“For me, it was rather scary because we are just a week out from the shooting at a Kosher market that was a hate crime against Jews,” she said. “I think what was interesting about the issue is that this comes out right after the executive order that was meant to kind of at least swander anti-Semitism on college campuses.
“As a Jewish student this is very scary, and this is the kind of rhetoric that gets Jews killed. It’s not something to be overlooked.”
Parker said something like this could have easily been overlooked, but it was a good thing it wasn’t.
“It’s lucky that we caught this before it turned into an already established event where they have already bought this woman’s plane ticket,” Parker said.
Campus officials said the school values diversity and input from community members.
“This input and collaboration have helped the university to directly address the concerns raised,” according to the statement. “SDSU is also in active conversations to help ensure members of its Jewish community are supported, has revised the review and approval process for student events and is looking to expand diversity training. Additionally, the SDSU Hillel Center has been a proactive and supportive partner and we value their continued close collaboration.”