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Burlington Free Press: UVM blames war between Israel and Hamas for cancelling Palestinian speaker

On October 25, 2023 Dan D’Ambrosio article “UVM blames war between Israel and Hamas for cancelling Palestinian speaker” appeared on the Burlington Free Press website.

The article can be read on the Burlington Free Press website.

The University of Vermont cancelled a lecture by Mohammed El-Kurd, a Palestinian poet and journalist, citing safety concerns created by the war in Israel, an action denounced as censorship by the sponsors of the lecture.

The free event, scheduled to take place in the Davis Center on Thursday, Oct. 26, has been moved online.

The article quotes Anne Petermann, executive director of Global Justice Ecology Project and a co-founder of the Lecture Series: 

“Universities need to be places for the free exchange of ideas… …As the humanitarian crisis in Gaza accelerates, Mohammed El-Kurd, a nationally recognized and award-winning Palestinian poet and journalist, is being prevented from sharing his perspectives as a Palestinian. This type of censorship, which reeks of Islamaphobia, is absolutely unacceptable.”

The following are excerpts from the article: 

  • In its statement, UVM said the lecture was planned many months ago, prior to this month’s escalation of conflicts in Israel and Gaza, which has had “profound impacts around the world and within our community,” changing the calculus for the lecture by El-Kurd.
  • “Based on conversations over the past week with community members, campus partners and public safety officials, our assessment is that holding the event on campus this week raises safety and security concerns that cannot be sufficiently mitigated,” UVM’s statement said. “Therefore the university has determined it will not provide meeting space for the Miller Lecture Series event on October 26.”
  • The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia, also weighed in on Tuesday, saying in a statement from Program Officer Graham Piro that canceling events like El-Kurd’s lecture “violates the academic freedom and free speech rights of the event organizers to bring speakers with certain views, as well as the rights of attendees to listen to those views.”
  • Fred Magdoff, a retired UVM professor who serves on the board of the Will Miller Social Justice Lecture series, told the Burlington Free Press on Tuesday that El-Kurd’s lecture was cancelled Saturday night via an unsigned email from UVM’s Division of Safety and Compliance. “It’s not clear who it’s from, which is kind of strange in and of itself,” Magdoff said.


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