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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

Ph.D. candidate faces backlash

On Oct. 26, a video was taken of Callen Zimmerman, a Ph.D. candidate and instructor in the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Department, tearing down an Israel poster in New York City.

“I was non-consensually filmed taking down Propaganda posters on a public street (which is a legal first amendment protected activity),” Zimmerman wrote in an email to The Statesman. “As a Jewish person I am deeply saddened by the capitulation of grief to perpetuate false narratives and equivalencies. Propaganda, such as these posters, create a skewed and limited understanding of the conflict and distracts from Palestinian loss of life.” 

Zimmerman wrote that aside from some kind words in private meetings and police escorts on campus, the administration did not offer any other support during a week of, “defamation, death threats and queer bashing.”

“Instead of reaching out to see if I was okay, or needed any support, they commented on me in the press, stopped my class from running, told me not to contact my students, and turned one of my classes into a ‘discrimination and bias’ informational session (without the approval or consent of my Department or Union),” they wrote.  

Liz Montegary, associate professor and department chair of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, wrote a letter expressing the department’s support and concern for Zimmerman on Nov. 3. Then another open letter addressed to Stony Brook’s administration was collectively written by the department’s fourth-year doctoral students after the University remained silent. 

The open letter written on Zimmerman’s behalf quotes the demands of the American Civil Liberties Union, and that SUNY “reject calls to investigate, disband, or penalize student groups on the basis of their exercise of free speech rights.”

The letter continues, “We demand a commitment to support student activists, particularly those from marginalized groups. We demand job security for Callen Zimmerman.” 

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