Syracuse, N.Y. — Syracuse University has cancelled a visit by a Middle Eastern studies scholar for a teach-in due to safety concerns, university officials announced Tuesday.
A faculty member had planned to host a 4 p.m. event titled "Teach In: The Occupation of Palestine" in partnership with student groups and the African American Studies department, according to a promotional flyer for the event obtained by the Post-Standard.
Rabab Abdulhadi, an associate professor at San Francisco State University and director of its Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies program, was listed as the featured speaker.
Abdulhadi is known for her fervent opposition to the Israeli state and in the past has praised Leila Khaled — a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization.
SU Chancellor Kent Syverud and Provost Gretchen Ritter said in an email to the campus community that the university's Public Safety Department consulted with local and federal law enforcement on how to safely host the event after the faculty member organizing it reached out with potential safety concerns.
The email said it was ultimately determined the event needed to be rescheduled because the university could not "confidently ensure the safety" of attendees and the wider campus community.
The announcement comes amid a dramatic increase in antisemitism and Islamophobia following the Oct. 7 surprise attack by fighters from the extremist group Hamas on southern Israel.
The attackers killed an estimated 1,300 people and took roughly 200 hostage. Israel has fought back by bombing Gaza, resulting in about 8,000 deaths.
Other universities around the state and country are seeing an increase in tensions on campus.
Cornell University said it was increasing police patrols and providing additional security for Jewish students and organizations after threats of violence against Jewish students were posted online Sunday evening. Gov. Kathy Hochul visited the campus in Ithaca Monday and said college campuses should be free from "any kind of hatred."
Syverud and Ritter, the top two officials at SU, said in the email that they care "deeply" about free speech and remain "strongly committed" to academic freedom, but safety also looms large on campus.
"We support those seeking to become better informed about important public issues, such as the conflict in the Middle East," they wrote. "However, in the current environment, it is vital that all of us plan carefully and in advance to ensure free speech also occurs in a time, place and manner that takes into account the safety and security of our whole community."
A university spokesperson declined to comment. The chair of the African American Studies department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.