By Elena Shao
On Friday, Jewish Student Association (JSA) member Sarah Myers ’21 began circulating two petitions opposing a recent request by the Stanford College Republicans (SCR) for funding for a campus visit by far-right conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza.
The first petition demands that the Undergraduate Senate deny the funding request, while the second calls for an investigation by the Office of Community Standards (OCS) into what they allege is SCR’s promotion of anti-Semitism on campus.
Myers and others have pointed to several of D’Souza’s past statements in labeling him anti-Semitic, including his retweeting of a post promoting one of his films with the hashtag #BurnTheJews and his joking about the Holocaust during a visit to Stony Brook University. He has also authored an article comparing a 1927 speech by Hitler to those of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and claimed that Hitler was “not anti-gay.”
D’Souza has since stated that he “did not see the hashtag” when he retweeted the #BurnTheJews tweet. SCR has also provided several defenses for D’Souza’s actions, stating that D’Souza was “simply highlighting how fascism and socialism both fall under the ideological umbrella of Progressivism” and not claiming that Bernie Sanders is morally on par with Adolf Hitler.
The petitions have garnered 747 and 443 signatures, respectively, since their release. More than 80 percent of signatories are undergraduates.
The petitions allege that hosting D’Souza would violate students’ freedom of religion on campus because, Myers said, “D’Souza promotes hatred of Judaism and Jewish people.”
“Freedom of religion means that everyone can publicly participate in the religion of their choice without fear or persecution,” she added.
While they have not officially endorsed the petitions, the JSA expressed concern over the possibility of D’Souza’s visit.
“The Jewish Student Association stands for an inclusive campus where all students, Jewish and non-Jewish, feel safe and welcome,” the JSA board wrote in an email to The Daily. “Dinesh D’Souza has a history of using his public platforms to disseminate hateful ideas that do not deserve to be elevated on Stanford’s campus.”
SCR wrote in a public Facebook post that they believe allegations of anti-Semitism against D’Souza are false, given that he has “condemned anti-Semites” and supports Israel “unequivocally.”
“While we may not agree with every argument D’Souza makes, his deconstruction of Progressivism makes him more than worthy of our invitation,” they wrote in The Stanford Review.
While they shared these statements publicly, SCR did not respond to The Daily’s requests for comment.
Stanford Democrats also criticized D’Souza in a statement to The Daily, labeling him an anti-Semite and drawing attention to the Oct. 27 mass shooting in Pittsburgh, wherein a gunman shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue, killing 11 people and injuring seven more.
“To offer a platform to a known proponent of anti-Semitism in the wake of one of the most heinous acts of anti-Semitic violence ever committed in this country is an egregious display of disrespect for the Jewish community on Stanford’s campus,” wrote Jackie O’Neil ’21, speaking on behalf of the Stanford Democrats, in an email to The Daily.
According to their article in The Review, SCR believes that no other Stanford group has done more to combat anti-Semitism recently than they have.
“We also recognize in light of the horrific massacre in Pittsburgh, anti-Semitism continues to cause pain for millions of Americans,” they wrote.
Freedom of speech
D’Souza’s invitation has also called attention to familiar questions of free speech, as were raised last year by SCR’s hosting of Jihad Watch director and self-proclaimed Islamophobe Robert Spencer and conservative group Turning Point USA representatives Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens.
In their Facebook post, SCR wrote that “whenever a conservative speaker is invited to Stanford, leftist activists … work incessantly to stop [the speaker] from coming.”
SCR also spoke out against the recent creation of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) Director of Academic Freedom position, which they characterized as an “outrageous encroachment on free speech rights at Stanford” in a different Facebook post.
However, ASSU President Shanta Katipamula ’19 has previously stated that the Director of Academic Freedom is only an advocacy role and that they will be unable to make policy decisions on behalf of the University.
“This position does not have the power to prevent any speaker from coming to campus, nor does it seek to limit access to anyone’s constitutionally protected right to free speech,” Katipamula wrote in an email to The Daily.
However, Myers argued that despite the University being bound to respect the free speech of students, it should not be obligated to provide funding for the event “because D’Souza promotes hatred.”
The Stanford Democrats added that the first amendment right to free speech “applies to state action, not to disbursement of funds by private universities.”
The ASSU will begin reviewing funding requests after the deadline to submit Standard Grant Applications ends this Tuesday.
Contact Elena Shao at eshao98 ‘at’ stanford.edu.