While other universities, including Rutgers, have suspended a group called Students for Justice in Palestine over violations of discrimination and harassment policies, Butler University apparently is investigating anyone who dares to condemn the pro-Palestine organization.

Indianapolis-based Butler University launched an investigation of the school’s College Republicans chapter Oct. 30, according to an email obtained by The Daily Signal. Butler did this after the GOP club condemned the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter for holding an anti-Israel protest only five days after the brutal rape, torture, and slaughter of over 1,200 Israelis at the hands of Hamas terrorists.

The protesters on Oct. 12 repeated several antisemitic chants, including “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” (which calls for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea). 

They also chanted, “Not a victim, not a crime!” This chant suggests that because pro-Palestine students believe Israel isn’t a victim, it wasn’t a crime for Hamas terrorists to rape, torture, and slaughter women and children Oct. 7 near the border between southern Israel and the Gaza Strip. (Hamas has been the elected government of Gaza since 2007.) 

The Butler University College Republicans chapter condemned the protest in an Instagram post Oct. 13, describing the chant of “Not a victim, not a crime!” as an “attempt to justify the cold-blooded attacks by an internationally designated terrorist organization on innocent civilians.”

The College Republicans club called for Butler University to follow the Non-Discrimination Policy of its own Office of Student Activities by “revoking” the Students for Justice in Palestine’s status as a registered student organization.

Butler University is a private, nonprofit university that enrolls over 5,000 students and receives federal funding. By taking federal funding and grants, Butler is required to maintain civil rights and Title IX staff who can investigate alleged discrimination in violation of federal law.

The school’s policy against discrimination also forbids student groups from calling for violence against or harassment of racial and ethnic groups.

According to copies of official emails and letters obtained by The Daily Signal, members of Students for Justice in Palestine filed a complaint Oct. 15  with Azure Swinford, Butler’s associate director for institutional equity and Title IX coordinator, asserting that the College Republicans’ condemnation incited violence against “Muslim and Palestinian” students. 

Butler University did not immediately respond to The Daily Signal’s request that the school confirm or deny the authenticity of the emails and letters.

Ten days later, Swinford notified the GOP club’s president, Aidan Kohnke, that she is “investigating the situation.”

Swinford joined Butler’s Title IX Office staff in August after working as the deputy Title IX coordinator and employee relations specialist for Indianapolis Public Schools.

Butler University on Oct. 30 launched an official investigation of the College Republicans for incitement and harassment. However, it doesn’t appear that the university is investigating Students for Justice in Palestine for hosting a protest that may have violated Butler’s discrimination policy. 

Butler University did not respond immediately to an email requesting comment on whether the school is investigating the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.

In an email Oct. 30, Swinford also asked Kohnke to “please take down the Instagram post from Oct. 13 until further notice.” The club then archived its post.

Swinford’s official notice of the investigation (pictured above near the top), states that Students for Justice in Palestine complained that College Republicans had “falsely accused” it of supporting the massacre by Hamas terrorists and chanting antisemitic phrases because the GOP club wants to incite violence and harassment.

Kohnke, president of the College Republicans chapter, says that Swinford told him in initial meetings before the investigation began that his club should refrain from “posting any more things that incite.” If she did, it would indicate that Butler’s investigating official already had made up her mind that the GOP club’s Instagram post incited violence against and/or harassment of Muslim students.

Butler University did not immediately respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment on whether Swinford had said those words.

Butler University’s apparent decision not to investigate the pro-Palestine group is surprising, given repeated concerns expressed by Jewish students and conveyed by College Republicans and members of Hillel, a network of organizations for Jewish students.  

Kohnke, the president of Butler’s College Republicans chapter, contacted me after a month of silence from Butler administrators on the investigation’s status. 

I had covered the pro-Palestine group’s Oct. 12 protest live for The Daily Signal and WIBC-FM (93.1) at Monument Circle in Indianapolis. Like other media representatives present, I recorded over an hour of footage filled with the slogans chanted by both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine demonstrators.

Kohnke asked whether I had video of the pro-Palestine group chanting “Not a victim, not a crime,” since it appeared from Swinford’s letter announcing the investigation that the entire charge against the College Republicans hinged on the club’s allegation that those words were chanted. 

It would be impossible for Butler University to claim that College Republicans incited violence if the GOP club only urged the university to investigate antisemitic language at a protest led by another school-sanctioned organization, wouldn’t it?

When I examined my video from that day, it didn’t take long to find the chant in question, verbatim, shouted by pro-Palestine protesters. After climbing the steps of the Soldiers & Sailors Monument, the protesters chanted the following in a measured cadence:

Long live Palestine!

Not a victim, not a crime!

Not a nickel, not a dime!

No more room for Israel’s crimes!

Footage of the pro-Palestine protesters chanting at the Oct. 12 protest, led by Butler’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter. Recorded by Tony Kinnett.

The protesters at the event organized and led by Students for Justice in Palestine also chanted “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free,” a call for ethnic cleansing that Hamas’ charter claims as the terrorist group’s motto.

After viewing the footage and reading Butler’s notice to College Republicans of its investigation, I accepted his offer. I also participated as an advocate for the club in an off-the-record meeting Tuesday with Swinford.

To be clear: Although it’s good to have proof that the College Republicans’ allegation is correct, it wouldn’t have been necessary even if I hadn’t captured the antisemitic chant on video. 

No policy at Butler University, much less state or federal law, states that you must have video documentation to allege that you heard or saw something.

Jay Greene, senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, told The Daily Signal that Butler’s investigation of a campus club for issuing a formal complaint is “chilling.” (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s news outlet.)

Greene said:

Launching a harassment investigation against an organization for objecting to harassment by another group has a chilling effect. If this were done to groups expressing concerns about police abuse or sexual misconduct, everyone would recognize how inappropriate it was. But because it was done [to] Republicans expressing concerns for Jews, Butler sees no problem.

Certainly, in investigating the credibility of the College Republicans’ claim over five weeks, one would expect Swinford to have contacted media outlets present at the pro-Palestine protest. The Daily Signal, one of them, has found no evidence that Swinford reached out to any. Butler University did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether Swinford had reached out to any media outlets. 

Kohnke says that Swinford told him that the College Republicans club likely would receive an official warning from Butler University over its conduct, but also could be disbanded.

I sought comment from Butler University on why it is threatening, punishing, and officially investigating the GOP club for condemning antisemitic chants by another student organization.

Mark Apple, Butler’s director of strategic communication, responded:

Students who file Bias Incident Reports are assured of confidentiality and, as a result, Butler University does not publicly comment on bias investigations. 

However, Butler has released official statements condemning the Hamas terrorist attacks of Oct. 7, and reminding our community that antisemitism, Islamophobia, hate speech, threats, and acts of violence will not be tolerated on our campus.

Ensuring the safety of our students remains our top priority. We remain committed to supporting our students and providing them with resources to strengthen their well-being.

Chris Elmore, chairman of the Indiana Federation of College Republicans, released a statement Wednesday condemning Butler University and reaffirming its support of the College Republicans chapter there:

The Indiana Federation of College Republicans stands by, and wholeheartedly supports, the actions of the Butler College Republicans. It is clear from the evidence that no part of the statement that the club issued was incorrect, or mischaracterizing. Further, it is our responsibility to denounce antisemitism in our communities, just as the chapter did.

In a national environment where the spread of antisemitism is rampant, and spreading through our higher education institutions, we have witnessed an insufficient response from universities across the country. The responses given in a House hearing recently by the presidents of Harvard, UPenn and MIT regarding whether or not calls for Jewish genocide were considered hate speech, is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Today, we are discovering the same problems are also prevalent at Butler University.

Today’s reporting [by The Daily Signal] reflects not only a spread of antisemitism, but the first known partisan manifestation of this controversy, interrupting the operations and the rights of the members of the Butler University College Republicans. When bureaucratic university demagogues can erase the civil rights of those they disagree with, one wonders how these lessons will be reflected in the next generation of leaders.  

Launching an official investigation into a student organization for expressing concern over openly antisemitic comments and asking that the university follow its own policies is patently insane. But it’s not surprising in the current climate of university double standards for who must adhere to discrimination policies.

This approach turns a common post-9/11 caution on its head: If you see something, don’t say something—you could be investigated for noticing.

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