Faculty, student groups push back against officials after civil rights complaint

Media Credit: File Photo by Eric Lee

The Faculty Senate’s diversity, equity and inclusion subcommittee called on officials to reinstate mental health services to Palestinian students as “equal members of the GW community.”

Student and faculty groups are pushing back against officials after a civil rights complaint filed earlier this month alleged that GW discriminated against Palestinian students.

University President Thomas LeBlanc issued a message Monday in support of Palestinian students after the advocacy organization Palestine Legal filed a complaint in D.C.’s Office for Human Rights alleging GW was “selective” in its offering of trauma services to Palestinian students following the June outbreaks of violence in Gaza. Faculty and students have criticized officials in the wake of the complaint, calling on GW to commit to providing Palestinian students with the same mental health resources as any other group on campus.

Palestine Legal filed the complaint earlier this month on behalf of an employee from the Office of Advocacy and Support, alleging that officials instructed the office to take down information about a “processing space” for Palestinian students in June. Members of the Faculty Senate’s diversity, equity and inclusion subcommittee said doing so supports an “inequitable culture” at the University and violates GW’s values outlined in a senate resolution supporting diversity, equity and inclusion last year.

“We ask the GW administration to reinstate its services to Palestinians as equal members of the GW community,” the subcommittee’s members wrote in a statement. “We also ask the GW administration to demonstrate a deep and meaningful engagement with DEI by providing equal access to resources and fairly treating all members of our community.”

Palestine Legal wrote in a statement Tuesday that LeBlanc failed to apologize for officials’ cancellation of the virtual processing space.

“And while LeBlanc’s statement also claimed that ‘mental health programs and services are available to GW students, without regard to their national origin,’ he made no indication as to whether GW has reversed its decision to prevent trauma support staff from explicitly including Palestinians in their programs, as it has done for other groups,” the statement reads.

Nada Elbasha, the OAS employee who brought the complaint to Palestine Legal, said LeBlanc’s response was “too little, too late.”

“There is no accountability for the harm done to GW’s Palestinian community, and there’s no recognition that Palestinians were denied emotional support services and solidarity while their families back home were beaten, evicted, teargassed and killed,” she said in the statement.

Students for Justice in Palestine released a statement Tuesday saying that LeBlanc’s response to the complaint was “vague, inadequate and ineffective” and did not provide the “concrete” action to address the discrimination outlined in the complaint.

“It bizarrely and merely redirects Palestinian students seeking support to go to the very same office which was prohibited from doing so by the University,” the statement reads.

The group called for officials to “reassess” their handling of the complaint to address the demands outlined by Palestine Legal.

“The opportunity to collectively heal as Palestinians is a step towards realizing racial justice,” the statement reads. “Palestinian students, like every other student group at GWU, deserve to process and grieve together.”

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