Catholic Academics Condemn SJP Decision

Twenty-seven academics and clergy from Catholic colleges co-authored a letter to Father McShane.

Twenty-seven academics and clergy from Catholic colleges co-authored a letter to Father McShane.

By Jake Shore

Twenty-seven academics and clergy from Catholic colleges co-authored a letter to Father McShane. (Victor Ordonez/The Fordham Ram)

Catholic academics and clergy from colleges across the United States wrote a public letter to Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university, last week in an attempt to reverse the decision against Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Fordham Lincoln Center.

Co-authored by 27 different academics and clergy from Catholic colleges, the letters come from schools such as Georgetown University, Santa Clara University, University of San Francisco, Xavier University, Marquette University, Loyola University and Mount St. Mary’s University.

Lincoln Center Dean of Students Keith Eldredge’s decision to deny SJP club status in January has drawn some criticism from Fordham students and faculty. Eli McCarthy, a justice and peace studies professor from Georgetown, organized the letter to Fordham. In an email interview with The Fordham Ram, he said clubs like SJP are important to the fabric of Catholic colleges and universities.

“The club [would provide] a structured way for all students, faculty, staff and the broader community to learn about issues of basic human dignity and rights, as well as to be inspired toward ways to transform injustice, even if there is disagreement along the way,” said McCarthy. “Catholic colleges should be a place where these issues are front and center, not marginalized and definitely not excluded.”

The letter argues the decision against the SJP is incongruent with the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, which came out in favor of relief for Palestinians, and with general Catholic social teaching.

Sapphira Lurie, FCLC ’17, faced disciplinary action for organizing a protest in response to Eldredge’s decision against the club. She has been a leading figure in the advocation for the creation of an SJP chapter at Fordham. She said she hopes Fordham administrators will reconsider their decision, based on their Catholic faith.

“My deep thanks to the Catholic priests and academics who wrote to Father McShane last week. I’m happy to hear that other Catholics are calling upon the Fordham administration to grant club status to SJP and to end the unjust censorship of students,” said Lurie in an email interview. “Perhaps Father McShane and other Fordham administrators like Dean Eldredge will recommit to their faith and do what is right.”

Christopher Rodgers, dean of student life at Rose Hill, said “A wide variety of feedback has been received on this decision, from those applauding it on principle to those taking the opposite view. It has been reassuring to receive inquiries from those seeking to better understand our careful discernment process.”

“We are glad to see our students and our community engaged in spirited and civil discussion,” said Rodgers.”

Eldredge reversed USG at Lincoln Cetner’s original vote that approved SJP as a club.