UN Expert: US Is Not Treating Student Protesters Who Support Palestine Fairly

The recent rise in student protest attacks on American campuses, according to a UN independent human rights expert, points to a “erosion of intellectual freedom and democratic principles within educational settings.”

UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education Farida Shaheed said in a statement at the conclusion of her official visit to the US, “I am deeply troubled by the violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, arrests, detentions, police violence, surveillance and disciplinary measures and sanctions against members of the educational community exercising their right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.”

The expert, who was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, expressed her particular concern about the way demonstrators—especially those who support the Palestinian cause—are treated unfairly because of their political beliefs.

Fundamental constitutional obligation
Ms. Shaheed traveled to Indiana, Colorado, and Washington, DC while she was in the US.

Her visit coincided with US students camping out on campus to demand a ceasefire, show support for Palestinians, and, in many cases, demand that the university divest all assets related to Israel.

She continued, “These attacks signal a concerning erosion of intellectual freedom and democratic principles within educational settings.”

By guaranteeing that all students have unfettered access to a wide range of ideas and viewpoints, Ms. Shaheed is pleading with the US government to reaffirm its fundamental commitment to freedom of speech.

Academic liberties are in danger
In addition, the Special Rapporteur voiced concern over 307 laws pertaining to gag orders in education that have been introduced in the US since January 2021.

“These policies, manifested through book bans and restrictions on curricula, have instilled a pervasive ‘chilling effect’ that stifles the free exchange of ideas and silences marginalised voices,” she stated.

According to Ms. Shaheed, the US educational system’s underfunding created the conditions for other systemic problems like teacher shortages and difficulties assisting students with their mental health.

The over-reliance on local property taxes exacerbates these disparities in school funding, negatively impacting low-income and marginalized neighborhoods.

According to the rapporteur, “Communities need to find a way to distribute funds more equitably between wealthier and poorer districts to end the cycle of deprivation and segregation.”

“I also urge the federal government to take decisive action to address disparities in educational funding,” she added.