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PRESS RELEASE: Award-Winning Palestinian Writer Prevented From Speaking At University of Vermont

Organizers to Hold Alternative Online Event with Mohammed El-Kurd

For Immediate Release 10/24/2023

Burlington, VT– On Saturday October 21st organizers of the Will Miller Social Justice Lecture Series were informed through an unsigned note from the University of Vermont’s (UVM) Division of Safety and Compliance that the Lecture Series’ fall event, to feature award-winning poet and author Mohammed El-Kurd, was being canceled due to “safety concerns”.

Mohammed El-Kurd, who lives in Palestine and is a correspondent for THE NATION and a Civic Media Fellow at the University of Southern California, was to speak at the UVM Davis Center. Flyers for the event say “He will talk about representation and misrepresentation of Palestinians in the U.S.”

“We have been planning this event for more than a year and have had the room scheduled for over three months,” stated Lecture Series Founder Ann Lipsitt. “And now the University cancels the event less than one week before it is to take place claiming ‘safety concerns.’  This is about curtailing free speech and the exchange of ideas and perspectives in the ongoing censorship of voices from Palestine.”

A statement put out by the Lecture Series, particularly its Jewish members, voiced concern to maintain the distinction, which has been ratified by the American Association of University Professors, that “The conflation of criticism of Israel and Zionism with antisemitism is false and is used to attack academic freedom”.[1]

This is part of a pattern of cancellations of Palestinian cultural and political events that has been seen on campuses and other institutions across the globe. This is deeply disturbing. Palestinian voices are selectively silenced just at the moment when we most need space for debate and dialogue in an attempt to understand the current conflict. 

The lecture series is determined that the voice of Mohammed El-Kurd will not be silenced. The event will now be held online.

“Universities need to be places for the free exchange of ideas” said Anne Petermann Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project and a co-founder of the Lecture Series. “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 Islamophobia, is absolutely unacceptable.”

The Will Miller Lecture Series will be hosting the event online.

Will Miller Social Justice Lecture Series was named in the memory of Will Miller, a Founding Board member of Global Justice Ecology Project and a long-time beloved Professor of Philosophy at the University of VT. 

Co-sponsors of the event include the UVM Departments of English and Sociology.

The full Lecture Series statement can be found here:


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