Students File Complaints Over Flag-Stomping
Student Organization brings grievance to student panel
November 7, 2006 7:36 PM
Upset over the College Republican-organized rally in which makeshift flags containing the Arabic symbol for God were stomped on, Muslim and non-Muslim students filed formal complaints.
�We never did anything to them intentionally,� said Omaid Salem, 24, vice president of the Muslim Student Association, or MSA. �What they did was pretty much bad.�
Salem and other Muslim students voiced their grievances last week to the Associated Students, which oversees funding and conduct for all sanctioned SF State student organizations.
A Student Organization Hearing Panel consisting of at least two Associated Students board members has been formed to review the complaint filed with the Office of Student Programs and Leadership Development. The panel will convene �as soon as possible,� ASI President Maire Fowler said.
The Oct. 17 rally in support of the war on terror turned into a heated shouting match in Malcolm X Plaza when the College Republicans presented the flags of Hezbollah and Hamas, two Islam-based political groups in the Middle East that the United States government deems terrorists organizations, with the purpose of walking on them.
Leigh Wolf of the College Republicans said their intention was not to offend Muslims, contending he let two Muslim students alter the flags to make the action less inflammatory. Some Muslim students argue the flags still bore the Arabic symbol for God when they were trampled on.
�They didn�t have to step on the flags to prove their point,� said Atif Madyun, president of the MSA.
The rally and subsequent verbal quarrel between College Republicans and angry students was watched over by at least four campus police officers, including Interim Police Chief Kirk Gaston, though they did not physically engage in the incident.
Since then Fowler said she has personally received complaints not just from Muslims but also Christian students. After listening to the students at the ASI meeting last week, Fowler assured them the board will investigate the matter.
�We definitely take this as a concern,� she said.
For Giuliano Savinelli, 19, a San Francisco City College Muslim student who had hoped to transfer to SF State, the incident has him questioning if he even wants to attend a school he said tolerates such acts with faculty and campus police looking on.
�They�re saying God is not worth anything at SF State,� Savinelli said. �Freedom of speech � there is a line where it crosses.�
Savinelli said he doesn�t support Hezbollah or Hamas, which is a democratically elected political party in Palestine, and is more upset about the act itself.
�There is no way that this whole thing can be seen as non-offensive,� Savinellli said to the board.
At a campus debate two weeks ago in which Wolf was a participant, Wolf was unexpectedly confronted about the flag-stomping episode when the moderator called upon Madyun during the audience question portion of the debate.
Madyun said he knew of no MSA members that would alter the flags, as Wolf claims they did, just so they could be stepped on.
�Why did you do it?� Madyun asked.
�Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organizations,� Wolf said. �I would do it again.�
The College Republicans and MSA are just two of 140 officially recognized SF State student organizations, according to the OSPLD.
Aware of the complaint and not concerned that any punishment will come of it, Wolf said he received a letter from the school�s administration charging the College Republicans of inciting violence and incivility. Wolf called the charges �deadly misguided and inaccurate.�
Under student organization conduct rules and procedure, if the panel determines the College Republicans violated university policies, it could result in a stiff letter of warning, group suspension or its official group status being revoked.
Wolf said if any such actions were to be imposed on the College Republicans the group would immediately file a lawsuit against the university.
�It�s an infringement on freedom of speech,� Wolf said.
The ASI board discussed the incident as part of their agenda at yesterday�s meeting, which was open to the public.
�We all deserve our common rights,� Salem said. �They need to apologize.�
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