A New York University graduate who sued the school for antisemitism last year says the college administration is fully aware of the challenges Jewish students face on campus and is not doing enough about it.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Adela Cojab said that last year after the school awarded Students for Justice in Palestine the President’s Service Award for “student organizations that have had an extraordinary and positive impact on the University community,” and Jewish students were upset, she started meeting with administrators every two weeks.
Last year, after the school awarded Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) the President’s Service Award for “student organizations that have had an extraordinary and positive impact on the University community,” Adela Cojab said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, and Jewish students were upset, she started meeting with administrators every two weeks.
“They didn’t think it was that big of a deal to give a hate group that award,” she said. “All administrators definitely knew” about what this organization had done to alienate Jewish and pro-Israel students.
University administrators told her “not to draw attention to it,” she added.
Cojab said her challenges with SJP and anti-Israel sentiment on campus came to a peak on Israel Independence Day 2018 when she was not at a barbecue with her fellow Israel advocates but went to a student government meeting instead, and that meeting turned antisemitic.
At the end of the meeting, students began berating Marc Wais, a university administrator and vice president of student affairs, regarding NYU’s stance against BDS, Cojab said. Wais left and Cojab faced the angry mob alone. She said she remembers certain things that were yelled at her and cannot recall how long the incident lasted.
“One member said he is so glad that I’m a proud Zionist and that I speak at conferences, because in 40 years I will look back just like every SS officer,” she told the Post. SS, meaning Schutzstaffel, or Nazi officer.
Cojab said the student said: “When you look back in 40 years and realize you were on the wrong side of history, everyone and you will know who you are.”
“This was videoed without my consent by multiple people,” Cojab said.
In the chaos, Cojab recalls one anti-Israel student standing up for her.
“[She] hopped in the circle and said, ‘There’s a lot of us and one of her, but this is not the time and place,’ and I will always be grateful for that,” she said.
In a state of shock, Cojab called the then-vice president of Realize Israel, Ari Spitzer, who found Cojab on the floor having a panic attack. However, Spitzer was able to get her to the barbecue where she was surrounded by friends. Then Cojab realized their best option was to thank Wais and NYU President Andrew Hamilton for standing up for the Jewish community.
She said Wais responded to her email and apologized for leaving, but he did not inquire about how the incident ended. Cojab was not satisfied.
“He could have at least acknowledged that it was hostile and asked if I was okay,” she said. “This [incident] made me the figurehead.”
Before the incident began, Cojab said, Wais noticed the lack of Israel representation at the meeting and asked her, “Where are your people?” She replied, “My people are celebrating our national holiday” [referring to Independence Day].
Cojab recalled how earlier in her college career, the NYU president invited Jews and anti-Israel students for a joint meeting that was facilitated by a professional mediator because “they knew it was a hostile environment.”
The facilitator allegedly was frustrated and unable to complete the event.
“At the beginning, when she was explaining between difference between dialogue and debate, then she realized that the anti-Israel students wouldn’t listen, and she finally looked at administrators and said it was useless and asked to reschedule a dialogue with people who wanted to speak,” Cojab said.
There were two pro-Palestinian students in the room who were genuinely looking to speak and have an open dialogue, but ultimately they did not have their chance because no follow-up session was scheduled, she said.
While NYU stands against BDS, it is a matter of survival and fiscal pragmatism, Cojab said.
“NYU has a Tel Aviv campus that is sustained by endowments, and standing against BDS makes economic sense,” she said. “They know how to do for their own interests. But on the ground they are afraid to act out because of public perceptions.”
“The university’s biggest tool is the four-year turnaround, waiting for things to die down and let problematic kids graduate,” she added.
Cojab said despite her experience and the lawsuit she filed last year that is still in progress, “NYU was always my dream school. NYU would still be my first choice if I were to go to school again.”
“This is not meant to tell students not to go to NYU,” she said. “If anything, this means they should go... My message to the high-school senior is apply to NYU. If they don’t apply, then all of our work is for nothing.”
Wais did not respond to a request from the Post for comment.