Contributed by 2014-2015 CAMERA Fellow Logan Woodard
It is college-touring season for many high school students all across the country. Applying for college is a very exciting process, and choosing the right college is an incredibly difficult and often stressful decision. There are so many factors that impact the final decision a high school student makes. I remember some of the things I had to think about when I was choosing which college would suit me best. I sat down and took a look at all of the schools I had been accepted to and then I started the process that every student on their way to college goes through.
Will I be able to get financial aid? How far from home do I want to be? What is the academic reputation of each potential school? How good (or bad) is the food? Do I know anyone already at the school? Will I fit in with the other students? How is the Greek life? These are the questions I asked myself when I was choosing where I would spend the next four years of my life. I think these are the questions most students on their way to college have asked themselves for decades.
Or at least that’s how it used to be.
This past Saturday was Accepted Students Day here at the University at Buffalo. This is an exciting time for so many parents and perspective students. High School seniors and their parents get a chance to see the university, meet current students, check out the academic departments, taste some food, and learn about some clubs. I am a very active member of both the Jewish and pro-Israel communities at the University at Buffalo, so for the past few years, I have helped table for this exciting day. Last year, I tabled with Hillel, and this year, I tabled for a club I helped establish, UB for Israel. It’s always a lot of fun talking to students and their parents and answering their questions. However, I noticed one pretty significant difference while tabling this year. Perspective students came over to the UB for Israel table with the usual questions—“what events do you guys do?”, “can you help me get to Israel?!”, and the occasional supportive comments and nods of approval from parents. Then came the new questions, the questions I never had to ask— “how are the relations with Palestinian students?” and “how bad is SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine)?”
These questions took me by surprise. Perspective college students are now considering the likelihood of being harassed or physically attacked while deciding where they want to go to college. I never had to ask these questions while I was in the shoes of current high school seniors just a few years ago. The questions these perspective college students and their parents are asking did not fully hit me until later that night while I was thinking of the implications they carry. Their concerns make sense. Early on in the 2014-2015 academic school year, a student was punched in the face by a member of Students for Justice in Palestine and had anti-Semitic slurs hurled at him at Temple University. In March, a Jewish fraternity house at Vanderbilt University had Swastikas spray-painted on it. There are countless other examples of anti-Semitism on college campuses, and this is clearly beginning to worry and influence students and their parents.
University officials and administrations need to step up to the plate. They need to start promising students and their parents that they will be safe at their schools. This is a critical time where student hate groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine, who have stated their support for Hamas, a genocidal terrorist organization, are becoming increasingly more threatening and radical. Pro-Israel student groups need to ensure incoming college students and their parents that they have support systems on campus and that there is no need to fear these anti-Semitic groups.