On December 13th, the Central Ohio Revolutionary Socialists (CORS) received notice that the Ohio State University Dean of Students had "determined that there is reasonable cause to believe your organization’s activities pose a significant risk of substantial harm to the safety or security of your organization’s members, other members of the university community or to university property." Thus, he decided to "hereby suspend the chapter of Central Ohio Revolutionary Socialists and its registration, temporarily and immediately, pending a full investigation by Student Conduct in the Office of Student Life."
We have also been reported to Student Conduct for a number of alleged violations which they state they will investigate. These violations include "failure to follow university rules regarding posting temporary fliers, reserving meeting space, using classroom space during a prohibited period (reading day) and the failure to respond to meeting requests from your advisor and university leaders." The intent of this statement is not to refute each of these allegations in detail, and at this point in time the specific content of the aforementioned allegations has not been issued to us. We would, however, like to point out that the claims leveled against us thus far are bureaucratic in nature. Not a single one of the alleged violations includes anything that would prove that our organization "pose[s] a significant risk of substantial harm" to anyone.
This suspension and investigation of us comes at a time of increasing repression against pro-Palestine student activists across the country. Just a day prior to our suspension, the Rutgers chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) received an eerily similar notice of suspension. About a month prior to that, Columbia University suspended its chapters of SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace. George Washington University also suspended its SJP chapter while Brandeis University banned its own. Weeks prior to that, the Governor of Florida directly intervened in campus politics by ordering the disbandment of the SJP chapters of the University of Florida and the University of South Florida. None of the administrations of these universities were able to demonstrate that the student organizations they suspended posed any threat to public safety, underscoring the real intention — to repress pro-Palestine speech itself. This recent wave of crackdowns is occurring simultaneously with a period of active ethnic cleansing in Gaza and massive state-sanctioned settler violence in the West Bank, actions which the U.S. government and many universities aid and abet.
The suspension of our organization came just 6 days after a teach-in we hosted titled "Intifada, Revolution, and the Path to a Free Palestine." By all measures, this was a routine meeting for CORS. We flyered as we normally do for such public-facing events, and met in our usual classroom. This educational meeting was a success by our standards, attracting approximately 50 people in-person and online to whom one of our members and a guest speaker presented a brief history of Israeli apartheid and Palestinian resistance as well as a discussion of the October 7th attack and its political implications and consequences. The meeting went smoothly and nothing transpired that threatened the safety of our members, members of the community, or anyone for that matter. Despite this, our teach-in has apparently provided the OSU administration with reasonable cause to believe that our organization is dangerous. It's important to note that no charges have been issued against CORS at this time and it's been left to us to prove our innocence against the University's reasonable cause which has not been delivered to us.
The claim that our organization is dangerous for hosting an educational meeting is ludicrous enough in itself, but it is positively disturbing given the real dynamics at play across American society right now. One of our organizers was nearly physically assaulted at OSU just for hanging up the flyers for our meeting. Additionally, a campaign of slander was publicly initiated against our organization on social media which listed names of our student members paired with lurid claims of support for genocide which had the purpose of encouraging harassment and threats against our members. Despite the slander and threats CORS has faced, we have been declared dangerous and the OSU administration wittingly or unwittingly decided to participate in this campaign against us.
Unfortunately, what CORS has faced for our political convictions pales in comparison to what many are facing just for who they are. Israel has deployed dehumanizing, racist language to manufacture consent for this latest brutal phase of the ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinians which has already taken the lives of over 20,000 people and displaced over 1.4 million at the time of writing. Given the United States’ unconditional support for Israeli aggression, it is no surprise this violence has come home to roost. There has been a well-documented escalation of violence and harassment against Palestinians in particular and Arabs and Muslims in general in the United States and Europe. When genocidal rhetoric is acceptable and promoted through establishment media and institutions and the government are participating in the harassment and intimidation of activists for Palestine, it should not surprise us that racist vigilantes feel empowered to take the violence at home to the next level, such as the recent brutal stabbing which led to the death of a 6-year old Palestinian boy and the hospitalization of his mother as well as the shooting of 3 Palestinian students in Burlington, Vermont. Even here in our community, a man was arrested after attempting to veer his truck into a Pro-Palestine march organized by SJP OSU.
The message from the Ohio State University is clear: pro-Palestine activism is dangerous, and if your organization advocates for Palestinian equality, you face the risk of repression. CORS has a long track record at OSU. Central Ohio Revolutionary Socialists has been a formally recognized student organization for four and a half years, and our predecessor organization, the International Socialist Organization, was registered for over a decade before that. At no point during the life of these two organizations did either face any disciplinary infractions for hosting similar meetings once or twice a month. As CORS, "revolution" is quite literally in our name. Over the years we have dedicated ourselves to organizing in favor of black liberation, gender liberation, environmental justice, international solidarity, workers’ power and a variety of other progressive causes. We have hosted dozens of teach-ins and public meetings educating about and advocating for ideas outside of the mainstream of U.S. politics which many would certainly find controversial, yet our politics have never constituted "reasonable cause to believe [our] organization’s activities pose a significant risk of substantial harm" until this very moment. It is only after our recent Palestine teach-in that we now must worry that any wayward accusation of putting up flyers incorrectly or meeting on the wrong day could jeopardize our organization's status or put our members at risk of punishment. We echo the conclusions that many SJP members facing similar repression have already come to. This sudden investigation and the selective enforcement of University rules are intended to create a chilling effect on freedom of speech for pro-Palestine voices in particular. This constitutes a real and serious violation of our right to freedom of speech on campus in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code.
First, we demand that OSU immediately reinstate Central Ohio Revolutionary Socialists as a student organization and drop the unsubstantiated allegation that we pose "a significant risk of substantial harm" to the community.
Second, we demand that if an investigation must be carried out regarding our handling of bureaucratic procedure that it be done with honesty and integrity. Excessive penalties that are selectively enforced point to the intention to create a chilling effect on pro-Palestine speech.
Third, we call on OSU to uphold freedom of speech for all students, but especially pro-Palestine voices in this period of unprecedented attacks against support for Palestine. Ohio State must not follow the trend set by universities including Columbia and Rutgers in suspending organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace for speaking out against ethnic cleansing and apartheid.
We harbor no illusions when it comes to the precedent our case could set for other student organizations at OSU, and potentially beyond. You can help resist this trend of repression against organizations and individuals who fight for Palestinian liberation by demonstrating the widespread community support that exists for the Palestinian cause. This is why we are asking you to sign our Petition of Reinstatement. Your solidarity in this moment could have a real effect on the future of freedom of speech for pro-Palestine voices on campuses across the country.