Empowering Student Activists

As was reported at the NLG-Mass Chapter’s Annual Meeting in January, the NLG and the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MA) created an ad hoc task force to address the needs of activists facing sanctions for supporting Palestinian human rights.  The NLG had set up a Protest Legal Support Hotline in October, in response to the intense backlash against activists, especially on college/university campuses.  Both organizations had also agreed that Palestine Legal would direct callers from Massachusetts our way because (to put it mildly) they were overwhelmed with requests for help.  But now we needed to figure out how to effectively address that flood of calls. 

The NLG’s Mass Defense Committee was (and is) doing its usual impressive work to provide criminal defense representation, so we turned our attention to college disciplinary hearings as the next priority. 

Attorney referral list.   We compiled a list of lawyers who handle college disciplinary hearings, along with the fees they charge.  The list is available through the NLG-Mass or CAIR-MA.   It’s a shorter list than we had hoped for, so if you have experience doing disciplinary hearingsand would like to be added, please contact either the NLG or CAIR-MA.

College discipline KYR materials.   We realized that there aren’t enough lawyers who handle these cases and, even if there were, most students cannot afford to pay legal fees.  So we created this guide for students who need to navigate their school’s disciplinary process on their own.  Huge thanks to the NLG’s Jeff Feuer and to Naomi Shatz, with the firm of Zalkind, Duncan & Bernstein, for sharing their knowledge.

Webinar.   On March 8, we presented a webinar on campus activism and college discipline, which you can watch here.  CAIR-MA handled the logistics: executive director Tahirah Amatul-Wadud introduced the program, legal director Barb Dougan moderated, and youth advocacy director Fatuma Mohamed handled all the technical aspects.  Our terrific speakers received rave reviews from those who attended.

  • Jeff Feuer – legal advice & practical tips for demonstrations;
  • Mason Kortz (NLG and Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic) – social media & doxxing;
  • Naomi Shatz – college disciplinary hearings;
  • Aanika Akkaraju (Boston University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine) – tracking disciplinary hearings at local universities;
  • Christina Jump (Muslim Legal Fund of America) – MLFA’s complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of Harvard students.

More work still needed.    We have been asked to train faculty members who are trying to support their school’s student activists.  Their role is limited during any meeting or hearing, but they can still play a critical role.  We have also been asked to train lawyers who are willing to handle disciplinary hearings. 

Finally, we recognize the need to address the rampant pro-Israel bias among employers, resulting in scores of employees who have been sanctioned, threatened, or terminated, typically due to social media posts on their personal accounts or anonymous doxxing campaigns.  We will let you know when we start working on these projects and how you can help. 

Barb Dougan

CAIR-MA Legal Director


Top row (l-r):  Barb Dougan, Fatuma Mohamed, Mason Kortz

Middle (l-r):  Christina Jump, Jeff Feuer, Naomi Shatz

Bottom (l-r):  Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, Aanika Akkaraju