“Dorm Storming” is a tactic used by anti-Israel activists at many campuses to slide mock eviction notices under student bedroom doors in the middle of the night, allegedly to let students know how Palestinians feel when served with eviction notices prior to demolition of their homes. The content of the flyers, including the frequency, number, and practice of such pre-demolition eviction notices is disputed, but that’s somewhat besides the point.

Students for Justice in Palestine frequently is the perpetrator of these dorm stormings, as happened at Northeastern University recently, resulting in SJP’s suspension.

The point of sliding political flyers under dorm doors, rather than handing them out on the street as students enter and exit, is to intimidate students in their most vulnerable place, their bedroom, and at their most vulnerable time, while they sleep. That is why many if not most universities ban the practice.

Universities have a legitimate interest in protecting student privacy in their homes (dorms) and bedrooms (dorm rooms).

Assuming the constitutional right to free speech applied to private college campuses as in public spaces, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld ordinances protecting homeowners against unapproved intrusions.  Rowan v. U.S. Post Office Dept., 397 U.S. 728, 738 (1970)(“We therefore categorically reject the argument that a vendor has a right under the Constitution or otherwise to send unwanted material into the home of another…. That we are often ‘captives’ outside the sanctuary of the home and subject to objectionable speech and other sound does not mean we must be captives everywhere.”)

The latest dorm storming was at Palladium Hall at New York University early this morning, before students awoke, as reported by NYU student Laura Adkins at The Times of Israel.  (added) According to an email forwarded to me, such dorm storming would violated Palladium policy: “All people/clubs must have their flyers approved for posting at the Palladium RC. No flyers are permitted to be slid under apartment doors.”

An important point, Adkins makes, is that Palladium Hall is known on campus for having a high concentration of Jewish students to the extent that it is the only dorm with a Shabbat elevator (which runs automatically during the Sabbath, so religious Jewish students do not have to press the buttons to go to and from their dorm rooms):

On the morning of April 24th, 2014, Jewish students that live in the Palladium residence hall of New York University (NYU) awoke to quite a shock. Slinking quietly through the night, members of NYU’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) had distributed mock eviction notices to students in this dorm (which is known across campus as one with a high concentration of Jewish residents, and is the only NYU dorm with a Shabbat elevator), listing distorted facts and with the stated purpose of “ draw[ing] attention to the reality that Palestinians confront on a regular basis.”

One Jewish resident of Palladium and Steinhardt Sophomore, speaking anonymously told me, “Being very straightforward, this made me feel targeted and unsafe in my own dorm room and I know others feel exactly the same as myself. I understand free speech rights but if this was targeted solely to Jewish students then this appears to be of a more threatening nature rather than informative.”

Here is the Eviction Notice distributed:

NYU SJP Mock Eviction Notice

Adkins provided me with this additional statement:

“I woke up this morning to frantic text messages and pictures of the flyers from many of my Jewish friends who live in Palladium, the dorm where these flyers were distributed. They expressed that waking up to these flyers, slipped under their doors in the dark of night, made them feel violated and unsafe. Slipping these flyers under students’ dorm room doors, in flagrant violation of NYU housing policy, creates a hostile environment for Jewish students.”

SJP and other anti-Israeli activists often deny that they target Jewish students, but it’s hard to understand why Palladium Hall, with its known concentration of religious Jewish students, was targeted.

This is part of a growing aggressiveness of anti-Israeli activitists at NYU and elsewhere.

The incoming President of the American Studies Association is an NYU Professor, and has used her position to hold an anti-Israel organizing conference at NYU.

At Vassar, U. Michigan, Cornell and elsewhere, SJP students have engaged in “direct action” when their views did not prevail.

Expect more of this, as highly coordinated efforts to pass divestment resolutions meet increasingly effective opposition.

My emails to the President and communications staff at NYU, as well as the dorm manager, have not yet been returned.

UPDATE:

At 4:13 p.m. Eastern I received the following email from NYU:

“The University became aware today of a incident involving the distribution of flyers in one of our student residences. The flyers were titled “Eviction Notice,” and went on to express concerns about Israeli policies towards Palestinians. It came to our attention when two student RAs alerted the hall’s professional staff.

“NYU encourages free speech and the free exchange of ideas, but our hope is that the discourse — including debate on controversial issues — will be conducted in a fashion that is mature and that is meant to elicit thoughtful discussion rather than simply provoke. A flyer titled “eviction notice” anonymously slipped under doors at night is not an invitation to thoughtful, open discussion; it is disappointingly inconsistent with standards we expect to prevail in a scholarly community. Our Residence Life and Housing Office will be looking into the matter and communicating with the students in the dorm.

“It is unclear why the flyering took place in this particular dorm; we don’t believe there is perception of this dorm as having an a high percentage of Jewish students (the presence of a Sabbath elevator is the result of a stairway that empties to the street and cannot be entered through the lobby behind the security desk, not because of a disproportionate presence of Jewish students in the building). However, were it to be the case that the flyering was done there because it was perceived be a dorm with a higher proportion of Jewish students, that would be troubling, dismaying and a matter of deep concern for our community.” — NYU spokesman John Beckman

The NYU statement does not address the issue, as stated in email from Palladium staff quoted in the body of my post, that sliding flyers under doors was prohibited.

Also, the explanation of the Shabbat Elevator is inconsistent with two online reviews (here and here, done long before this was an issue) noting the Shabbat Elevator stops at two specific floors for use by religious reviews.

https://foursquare.com/item/4f24099de4b0085e49823f56

http://baddieworld.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/moving-platforms-and-shabbat-elevators/

I have asked NYU’s spokesman for clarification.

Regardless, Adkins indicates the Shabbat Elevator at the Palladium is perceived as reflecting the use by religious Jewish students.

Update No. 2:

I received an updated statement from NYU in response to my follow up, clarifying the elevator issue and indicating there are reports a second dorm was hit:

Yes, it is a rule violation, and Residence Life and Housing Office will be looking into the matter.

Also, you apparently misunderstood what I wrote about the elevator, or I was not clear enough — the Sabbath elevator is there to serve Jewish students on the Sabbath. My point was that the original blog post cited the presence of the Sabbath elevator in this dorm as an indication that this dorm is home to a particularly large Jewish presence; however, that’s not why the Sabbath elevator is in place in this dorm. The reason there’s a Sabbath elevator in this dorm — as opposed to other dorms — is because, unlike the other dorms, the interior stairway for one section of the dorm exits to the street, rather than the lobby, where there are security guards; for this reason, students are not able to enter the stairway from the ground floor, so there is a need for a Sabbath elevator in this facility.

For what it is worth, because the original blog post speculated that the leafleting took place here because it was “known” as a home to a particularly large Jewish population, I checked with both the University’s Housing Office and our Jewish chaplain to see if they believed this dorm did have such a reputation before issuing my statement — neither of them did.

And, as we have subsequently learned, the leafleting did not take place only at this residence hall. It also took place at a second residence hall. I am enclosing a statement that has been revised to reflect the new information.

Feel free to email me again if you have further questions.

–John Beckman

“The University became aware today of a incident involving the distribution of flyers at two of our student residences. The flyers were titled “Eviction Notice,” and went on to express concerns about Israeli policies towards Palestinians.

“NYU encourages free speech and the free exchange of ideas, but our hope is that the discourse — including debate on controversial issues — will be conducted in a fashion that is mature and that is meant to elicit thoughtful discussion rather than simply provoke. A flyer titled “eviction notice” anonymously slipped under doors at night is not an invitation to thoughtful, open discussion; it is disappointingly inconsistent with standards we expect to prevail in a scholarly community. Our Residence Life and Housing Office will be communicating with the students in the dorm, looking into the matter, and following up appropriately.

“It is unclear why the flyering took place in these two dorms; we don’t believe there is perception of them of being home to a higher percentage of Jewish students (the presence of a Sabbath elevator in one of them is the result of a stairway that empties to the street and cannot be entered through the lobby behind the security desk, not because of a large presence of Jewish students in the building). However, were it to be the case that the flyering was done these locations because either of them were perceived be a dorm with a higher proportion of Jewish students, that would be troubling, dismaying and a matter of deep concern for our community.” — NYU spokesman John Beckman

In response to my inquiry as to the second dorm hit, NYU sent the following:

Lafayette St Residence Hall.

Also, I found a typo in the revised statement I just sent you, and, because it was unclear to you, I have revised the parenthetical about the Sabbath elevator.

Here is a revised version of the revised statement.

“The University became aware today of an incident involving the distribution of flyers at two of our student residences. The flyers were titled “Eviction Notice,” and went on to express concerns about Israeli policies towards Palestinians.

“NYU encourages free speech and the free exchange of ideas, but our hope is that the discourse — including debate on controversial issues — will be conducted in a fashion that is mature and that is meant to elicit thoughtful discussion rather than simply provoke. A flyer titled ‘eviction notice’ anonymously slipped under doors at night is not an invitation to thoughtful, open discussion; it is disappointingly inconsistent with standards we expect to prevail in a scholarly community. Our Residence Life and Housing Office will be communicating with the students in the dorm, looking into the matter, and following up appropriately.

“It is unclear why the flyering took place in these two dorms; we don’t believe there is perception of them as being home to a higher percentage of Jewish students (the presence of a Sabbath elevator in one of them to serve Jewish students is the result of a stairway that empties to the street and cannot be entered through the lobby behind the security desk, not because of a particularly large presence of Jewish students in that building). However, were it to be the case that the flyering was done these locations because either of them were perceived be a dorm with a higher proportion of Jewish students, that would be troubling, dismaying, and a matter of deep concern for our community.” — NYU spokesman John Beckman

Update No. 3

NYU SJP admits to serving eviction notices, says didn’t target Jews and served 2000 of them (a clear rule violation):

Over 2,000 students at New York University received mock eviction notices on the morning of April 24th. Every resident in the Lafayette and Palladium residence halls was told to evacuate their dorm, which would be demolished within three days.