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Op-Ed: The real threat is the SCR’s tactics

The targeting of rising junior Hamzeh Daoud is emblematic of an ongoing pattern of the Stanford College Republicans’ (SCR) use of bullying and fearmongering tactics in lieu of engaging in intellectual debate. I have the great fortune of calling Hamzeh a dear friend, and have for two years. Those who know him recognize his deep passion and determination for achieving social justice. His tireless work with Students for Justice in Palestine, on the ASSU Senate pushing for need-blind aid for international students and countering Islamophobia on campus earned him recognition by Stanford Politics as the fourth most influential student on our campus.

While Hamzeh and I share many beliefs, we vehemently disagree on the issue of Israel: I promote a two-state solution as a Zionist. Despite this difference, Hamzeh and I regularly grab coffee or dinner and talk about our classes, his theater performances, my human rights work and then, yes, we argue respectfully and intelligently about Israel. This is the intellectual vitality and the environment of challenging ideas, mutual respect and free speech that Stanford aims to create.

The SCR, upon seeing Hamzeh’s initial post threatening to “physically fight” Zionists on campus, didn’t recognize it as the impassioned hyperbole it was nor contact Hamzeh to debate this idea. Rather, SCR screenshotted the post (which Daoud quickly changed to “intellectually fight,” recognizing his own error within four hours of the initial post) and waited 24 hours to attack Hamzeh and post the uncontextualized picture with the original, now inaccurate, wording on Facebook.

This is the student group whose leader promised to “crush the Left’s will to resist.” This is the student group who brought Islamophobic and academically-debunked speakers to campus. This is the student group who conspired with Hoover Center faculty to conduct opposition research on students. This is the student group whose inaccurate reporting led Professor David Palumbo-Liu to receive death threats. If these constitute manifestations of free speech to the SCR, how is Hamzeh’s four-hour post hyperbolically referencing violence not categorized the same way?

It is clear to me where the real threat to Stanford’s community lies: in the SCR’s tactics. While for four hours Hamzeh’s Facebook wall read of physical fights, SCR has been engaging in vindictive and harmful targeting of Stanford community members for years. They didn’t redact Hamzeh’s name, instead blasting a portrayal of him as a violent Muslim Palestinian into the vicious world of the internet. While Hamzeh recognized the pain caused by his post, the SCR has never apologized for the students they expose to hate mail, death threats and cyberbullying. The words “physically fight” from an activist and peaceful member of our community will never result in harm. The SCR’s actions have emotionally and mentally harmed people of color, activists and women on our campus. The administration should recognize that the larger threat to students is not a political fist fight, but rather cyberbullying.

Beyond the threat that SCR poses to the Stanford community, their tactics fail to rise to the standard of intellectual, respectful, meaningful and welcome debate that Stanford espouses and requires in its Fundamental Standard. They engage in ad hominem attacks, dodging genuine arguments and opportunities for discourse.

For a group who claims to value free speech and debate, it’s hypocritical and disappointing. As students, we are “expected to respect and uphold the rights and dignity of others” and “uphold the integrity of the university as a community of scholars” that demands “intellectual honesty.” SCR’s cyberbullying, disregard for academic accreditation of its speakers and gaslighting tactics are in violation of our Fundamental Standard.

Our campus needs discourse. When the Stanford College Republicans are ready to debate us on our ideas —  instead of bringing speakers who challenge our worth according to our religion or gender identity or diminish our arguments as “victimhood mentalities” — we’ll be here to listen, debate and demonstrate what free speech and intellectual vitality truly mean.

 

— Hannah Smith ’20

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