Muslim Student Association disappointed with University's response
Students feel that statement was not supportive enough compared to Yale's response
February 22, 2012, 10:49 pm · Updated February 23, 2012, 11:06 pm·
Penn’s Muslim Student Association is pushing the University to take a stronger stance in light of recent findings on the New York Police Department.
MSA was disappointed with Penn’s response to reports of the NYPD’s undercover surveillance of Muslim students.
“The fact that students on our campus feel scrutinized simply because of their religious affiliation, race or national origin is a sad and troubling statement on our times,” the official statement released by the University yesterday read.
MSA expected Penn to take a stronger stance and use more powerful rhetoric, like in a statement by Yale University President Richard Levin.
Levin’s statement, released on Feb. 20., condemned NYPD’s undercover monitoring. Yale was one of the northeast schools under surveillance, according to a Nov. 2006 NYPD report.
“I am writing to state, in the strongest possible terms, that police surveillance based on religion, nationality, or peacefully expressed political opinions is antithetical to the values of Yale, the academic community, and the United States,” Levin’s statement said.
Samir Malik, a 2008 Wharton and College graduate and former MSA president, believes Levin’s statement was much stronger than Penn’s.
“I think that’s a very powerful testament to how much the Yale community is committed to protecting and looking out for those students,” Malik said. “It would’ve been fantastic to see Penn defend their students and stand up for them in the same way.”
College junior Mohammed Hussain, president of Penn’s MSA, agreed. “I don’t know if you can count [Penn’s statement] as a condemnation,” he said.
“It didn’t include the word ‘Muslim,’” he added. “It feels like they’re putting us at arm’s length.”
Hussain said MSA is hoping to meet with high-level administrators to discuss the situation and plan further action.
Malik also hopes to see the University take further action.
“I would love to see Penn sit down and have a conversation with … all the other universities affected and work on this together. I think the power that these universities collectively can have in addressing this issue … is very powerful.”
Malik was disappointed that Penn was “reluctant” to support its students in the way that other universities are doing.
The University’s statement read, “while the University cannot protect students from the harsh realities of the world we all live in, we do want every student on this campus to understand and appreciate that they are valued and supported as members of the Penn community.”
Penn’s statement was not supportive of Muslim students, Malik said. “Students come to Penn to find a place where they can feel safe and grow … and when things like this happen, the University needs to be there for them and be supportive.”
On Feb. 18, The Associated Press reported that the NYPD had regularly monitored MSA blogs and websites at schools across the northeast, including Rutgers and New York universities and the University of Buffalo. According to a confidential Nov. 2006 report released by the AP, no “significant information” was found on Penn’s MSA.
In an official statement, Rutgers welcomes “a thorough investigation by the NYPD of its own activities.” According to the AP, MSAs at several New Jersey universities signed a letter calling New York’s attorney general to investigate the NYPD’s surveillance reports of Muslim communities.
Penn Hillel plans to issue a statement in solidarity with MSA. Penn’s interfaith group — Programs in Religion, Interfaith and Spirituality Matters — may also issue a statement in support of MSA, Hussein said.