On Oct. 15-17, 2004, the Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM) held its national conference at Duke University, sparking extensive discussion on campus and more widely. The university was criticized by some for agreeing to host the conference and praised by others for promoting free speech. Despite predictions to the contrary, the conference and related events unfolded peacefully. This site examines how the controversy led students and others at Duke to take a closer look at the underlying conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, and at issues such as academic freedom and terrorism.
Sunday, Oct. 17: Palestine conference ends with rally and protests
Saturday, Oct. 16: Palestine conference and related events under way
Friday, Oct. 15: Palestine conference set to kick off
Wednesday, Oct. 13: University denounces bogus e-mail seeking to discredit conference
A house course on 'U.S. Policy and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict' was one response to the announcement of the Palestine Solidarity Movement conference. It puts discussion about the Israeli-Palestine controversy in a historical perspective. Discussions are led by students. University officials are working with student and other campus groups to promote other discussions across campus about the Middle East.
President Richard H. Brodhead told nearly 100 people at the Judea Reform Congregation in Durham that Duke agreed to host the PSM conference because of the university's commitment to free speech and academic freedom. "You should not think the truth is so weak that it needs the power of suppression," he said.
To read more about President Brodhead's views on the conference, click here. Also see his Oct. 1 remarks to the Duke University Board of Trustees and his Oct. 21 remarks to the Academic Council.
The PSM conference attracted national and international attention, with coverage in such news outlets as the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Jerusalem Post, al-Jazeera television and the New York Sun. University officials also received hundreds of letters, both for and against the conference. This is a sampling of the ongoing discussion.
Continue weekend’s discussions
The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper, writes, “Now that the conference has passed, the University faces another challenge: continuing to educate and inform students.”
Lessons learned as conference ends
The News & Observer of Raleigh writes Oct. 18, “A gathering that riled Duke University alumni, tested free speech and cost the school more than $50,000 for security ended Sunday in peace.”
Conference at Duke University equates Zionism, apartheid
The Jerusalem Post writes Oct. 17 writes that the PSM conference “stirred up emotions in the Duke community and the Jewish community nationally.”
Palestine Solidarity Conference at Duke
WUNC radio reports Oct. 18, “There were protests and threats of violence when Duke University announced it would host the Palestine Solidarity Movement conference. The gathering, and pro-Israel counter events, ended last night without incident.”
Jewish Federation Asks Those Considering Protesting to Refrain
The Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish Federation said this following a meeting with Duke President Brodhead. In a follow-up statement, it said "the organizers' guiding principles do not lead us to believe this conference is being held in the true spirit of academic dialog."
Duke's Graduate and Professional Student Council Supports Decision
The Council's executive committee, in a memo written by its president, "applauds the University for its commitment to academic freedom" and backs the decision to allow the conference to take place.
The Herald-Sun of Durham writes that Duke president Richard H. Brodhead's refusal to divest in firms with military ties to Israel "wisely continues a policy that is by no means as simple as it might appear."
Student Government Endorses Duke's Commitment to Academic Freedom
After a lengthy discussion, members of Duke Student Government narrowly voted to support a resolution affirming academic freedom.
Debating at Duke
The News & Observer of Raleigh writes that President Richard H. Brodhead's decision to allow the PSM conference is "in keeping with the principle of fostering free debate."
Editorial Praises Pro-Israeli Campus Response
Duke's student newspaper, the Chronicle, says in an editorial that "the way in which the pro-Israeli groups chose to respond [to the conference] -- recognizing PSM's right to exist and advocating the weekend as an opportunity for education rather than as an opportunity for protest -- is the classiest move possible and should be applauded."
Read more Chronicle coverage here.
JTA: “The Israeli-Palestinian Issue is Intensifying the Fall-Semester Buzz at Duke”
JTA, the “global news service of the Jewish people,” examines in an Oct. 4 article how the controversy over the PSM conference is playing
out on the Duke campus and elsewhere.
Executive Committee of the Academic Council Statement on Upcoming Palestine Solidarity Movement Conference.
Council's governing body says the decision to hold the conference reinforces the principle of free speech
Duke's correct choice
Columnist Rick Martinez objects to Duke's rationale in deciding to allow some of its students to host the student conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement. In response, Michael Munger, chairman of Duke's political science department, writes, "I disagree with PSM vehemently. But I defend Duke's decision to sponsor the conference just as vehemently." Read his letter here.
Senior Official Discusses Duke’s Commitment to Academic Freedom
Duke “zealously guards its commitment to providing a forum for the free and open exchange of controversial ideas,” says John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations
Student Affairs Official Explains How student Groups Register Their Events
Gregg Heinselman, director of the Office of Student Activities and Facilities, says Duke officials work collaboratively with student leaders for successful events