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College Hall on Dec. 9, 2023. Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

The University has opened an investigation into Penn Students Against the Occupation of Palestine, prohibiting the group from organizing events in Penn-affiliated spaces until the probe has concluded.

Penn’s Center for Community Standards and Accountability is leading the investigation into PAO, a pro-Palestinian student organization, according to a source familiar with the matter. The organization has been temporarily removed from Penn Clubs, an online directory of registered student organizations. 

The DP could not confirm what sparked the investigation or when it was launched. PAO was listed on Penn Clubs as recently as Feb. 18, according to website archives.

A University spokesperson told the DP that “the privilege of being listed on the Penn Club website is a benefit of being an active registrant with the Office of Student Affairs.” 

“A club would not be listed in the event of a lapse or suspension of registration, among other reasons,” the spokesperson added.  

Multiple PAO members declined to comment. PAO is the first political advocacy group known to be the subject of a University investigation since a Penn spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal in December that probes into three registered student groups were ongoing.

The investigation into PAO follows a recently amended lawsuit filed by Penn students regarding antisemitism on campus. The lawsuit mentions multiple Penn student organizations, including PAO — which is cited in allegedly antisemitic instances almost 30 times. 

According to the amended lawsuit, PAO is a student group that recently formed “as if to one-up the antisemitism.” The plaintiffs allege that PAO “demonize[s] Penn Hillel’s Birthright Israel program,” and that in its 2022 Penn Disorientation Guide, PAO falsely stated that “Israel is a settler colonial state that uses apartheid to further its ethnic cleansing agenda.”

PAO has participated in multiple pro-Palestinian demonstrations since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, several of which have prompted public responses from University administrators. In December, PAO joined a pro-Palestinian march across Philadelphia that culminated in a rally of over 500 attendees at 40th and Market streets, prompting Penn to investigate graffiti along the Walnut Street march route. PAO also organized a walkout on Penn’s campus in October.

In November, Penn denounced projections of pro-Palestinian messages that were also critical of the University onto campus buildings, calling the displays antisemitic and “vile.” 

At the time, PAO and the Philly Palestine Coalition had posted on their Instagram stories photos of several messages projected onto Huntsman Hall, Irvine Auditorium, and Penn Commons — displaying phrases such as “Let Gaza live,” “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” “Zionism is racism,” “Penn funds Palestinian genocide,” “From West Philly to Palestine, occupation is a crime,” “Free Palestine,” “Liz Magill is complicit in genocide,” and “10,000 murdered by Israeli occupation since October 7.”

According to its website, CSA aims to foster accountability, integrity, and community cohesion at Penn, alongside facilitating healing processes. It handles breaches of both the Code of Academic Integrity and the Code of Student Conduct and coordinates the University's efforts to manage incidents of bias and harm.