Syracuse University – June 2017

Syracuse, NY

Syracuse University professor Dana Cloud received criticism from right-leaning publications such as Campus Reform and The College Fix for a tweet that some perceived as a call for violence. Cloud was participating in a counter-protest against the “March Against Sharia” rally in Syracuse, New York, on June 10, 2017. After the incident, Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud defended Cloud, and a petition supporting Cloud gained signatures from around the country.

Key Players

Dana Cloud is a professor of communications and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University. She is a self-described “radical liberal,” and in 2006 she appeared in conservative author David Horowitz’s book that listed the 101 “most dangerous” professors in America, Syracuse.com reports. She appeared on the list for her outspoken support of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions against Israel) movement and her criticisms of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kent Syverud is the current president and chancellor of Syracuse University. He began his term on January 13, 2014. After receiving calls for Cloud to be fired, Syverud wrote an email to the campus community in which he defended Cloud’s actions.

ACT for America is a conservative organization dedicated to “preserv[ing] American culture and to keep[ing] this nation safe,” according to the group’s website. ACT has condemned cities whose public schools serve halal food due to large populations of Muslims, discouraged interfaith dialogue with Muslims, and lobbied state legislatures to eliminate aspects of textbooks that contain allegedly inaccurate equivalencies among Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, reports The Atlantic. On June 10, 2017, ACT organized “March Against Sharia” rallies in 25 cities across the United States, including Syracuse. ACT for America has 280,000 members and over 1,000 chapters, according to Syracuse.com.

Brigitte Gabriel, ACT’s founder, emigrated to the United States from Lebanon in 1989 and describes herself as a “survivor of Islamic terror.” She has written two major books about fighting radical Islam: “They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It” (2008) and “Because They Hate: A Survival of Radical Islam Warns America” (2006).

Further Details

On June 10, Cloud was participating in a counter-protest against the “March Against Sharia,” which was organized by ACT for America. Syracuse.com reported that the counter-protesters chanted phrases like “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA” and “Muslims are welcome here.” As the ACT protest began to disperse, Cloud tweeted, “We almost have the fascists on the run. Syracuse people come down to the federal building to finish them off.” This tweet received more than 600 responses, with conservative pundit Ann Coulter retweeting it. Individuals responded with messages such as “@SyracuseU is it safe for my children to be on campus with this clearly unstable professor threatening violence?” Other people sent threats to Cloud.

On June 18, an online petition was circulated, titled “Statement of Solidarity with Professor Dana Cloud.” The petition defended Cloud’s tweet of June 10 and stated that the threats against her were not isolated to this incident, but “part of a campaign of intimidation and harassment against those standing in solidarity with Muslims and other oppressed groups.” The petition was signed by a large number of professors from colleges around the nation.

Syracuse president Kent Syverud also defended Cloud in an email to the campus community. According to Syracuse.com, he wrote, “I can’t imagine academic freedom or the genuine search for truth thriving here without free speech … Our faculty must be able to say and write things–including things that provoke some or make others uncomfortable–up to the very limits of the law.” He denied that Cloud’s tweet was intended to incite violence, and compared “blacklisting” professors to tactics used against suspected communists during the Cold War.

Both the march and the protest were reportedly peaceful, and no arrests were made. The two sides stood on opposite sidewalks shouting at each other, reports Campus Reform. The ACT-affiliated group was holding American flags and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Outcome

Syracuse Stands By Professor

Syracuse president and chancellor sent an email to the campus community defending Cloud’s right to tweet and stating that she would not be fired. He also stressed the importance of free speech to academic freedom and intellectual pursuits.

External References:

Prof urges students to ‘finish off’ anti-Sharia protesters, Campus Reform

Syracuse University chancellor defends prof after tweets sets off right-wing backlash, Syracuse.com

About Brigitte Gabriel, ACT for America

America’s Most Prominent Anti-Muslim Activist Is Welcome at the White House, The Atlantic

Dueling Protests in Syracuse: ACT for America and counter-protest face off, Syracuse.com

Blacklisted: Syracuse University professor targeted for speaking out on politics, Syracuse.com

Syracuse University chancellor defends prof after tweets set off right-wing backlash, Syracuse.com

Statement of Solidarity with Professor Dana Cloud

The Dangers of Filtered Speech, Inside Higher Ed

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

December 1, 2017