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Students, SDSU officials to review free-speech policy in wake of anti-Muslim fliers

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SAN DIEGO -- The controversy over anti-Muslim fliers posted at San Diego State University resulted in a meeting Monday between students and school officials, in which they agreed to review university policies to ensure a balance between freedom of expression and protection from harassment.

The two-hour meeting came after a protest last week in which students surrounded the car of SDSU President Elliot Hirshman, criticizing what they believed was a tepid response to posters displayed on campus that identified by name seven students who allegedly allied themselves with Palestinian terrorists and promote hatred of Jews.

Following the meeting, SDSU issued a joint statement under the names of Hirshman, Vice President of Student Affairs Eric Rivera, student leader Mustafa Alemi, Osama Alkhawaja and Rachel Beck of Students for Justice in Palestine and other university officials.

The statement said the participants agreed on some issues and disagreed on others.

“We agree it is critical to protect all members of our university community from harassment as specified in our university Senate policies,'' the statement reads. “We agree we are committed to the safety of all members of our community. We also agree on the fundamental importance of freedom of expression.''

Creating the “appropriate balance between freedom of expression and protecting members of our community from harassment,'' as in the case of the fliers, poses a “significant'' challenge, the statement says.

“The parties have agreed that in collaboration with (the Associated Students) and under the aegis of the university Senate, they will undertake a review of university policies to ensure we are balancing freedom of expression and protection from harassment,'' the statement says.

The meeting attendees agreed that in cases of racism, islamophobia, misogyny, homophobia and other forms of bigotry, “we abhor the content of such expressions, even as we recognize the protected status of these expressions,'' according to the statement.

They also said they re-affirm their commitment to “supporting an environment that fosters meaningful dialogue and mutual respect.''

Beck was one of the students named on the poster.  She said not only are the posters a threat to her safety, but also her future.

"The first thing that pops up is these posters calling me a terrorist," said Beck. "I'm worried employers will look at that and say she could be a threat."
Alkhawaja is the president of SJP and his name was also listed on the flier. He said the meeting is a first step, but what had a really hoped for is for the university to stand behind them.
"I don't understand why they can't be affirmative of their students, that they aren't terrorists," said Alkhawaja.  "Unless the university is willing to condemn these statements (the fliers), this will continue."
At the bottom of the fliers that contained the student names was a link to the Horowitz Freedom Center, the organization run by David Horowitz, who is scheduled to speak Thursday at SDSU on combating anti-Semitism on college campuses.
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