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Two IU Student Government members resign, accuse leadership of antisemitism

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In a letter sent to an IU Student Government chat on Teams on Nov. 13, two members of IU Student Government’s executive branch announced their resignation effective immediately and criticized IUSG leadership for failing to address antisemitism on campus.

IUSG Treasurer Alex Kaswan and Co-Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Makiah Pickett wrote the letter to the IU student body to express their concern that under the leadership of Student Body President Aaliyah Raji and Vice President Marsha Koda, IUSG wasn’t fulfilling its purpose of advocating for the entire student body, including Jewish students.

In response, Raji released a statement Wednesday denouncing antisemitism and Islamophobia on campus and emphasizing IUSG’s commitment to combatting these issues.  U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, a Republican from Columbia City, Indiana, also responded to the resignations Wednesday with his own letter addressed to IU President Pamela Whitten regarding allegations of antisemitism at IU.

Pickett and Kaswan’s letter

Both Pickett and Kaswan wrote their own statements within the letter, addressing their individual experiences within the organization and the antisemitic rhetoric they witnessed.

“In both public and private conversations, it is clear the IUSG President’s rhetoric is blatantly antisemitic, intentionally neglecting the experience of Jewish students on campus,” Pickett wrote. “In this administration, there has been a lack of awareness to reach out to Jewish students and stakeholders on campus.”

In the letter, Pickett claimed IUSG leadership said that “Antisemitism is not an issue on campus.” Pickett wrote that she was called Islamophobic when she attempted to address instances of antisemitism and bias in the organization.

“I am not a Jewish student on campus, but I surely know this: diversity, equity and inclusion is not achieved through the exclusion of Jewish students – particularly when they represent 10 percent of our student body,” Pickett wrote, concluding her statement in the letter.

In his own statement, Kaswan addressed the situation from his perspective as a Jewish student on campus.

“I have been vocal about my concerns and leadership mentioned that they ‘care,’ yet their aforementioned rhetoric and lack of action clearly indicate a lack of care,” Kaswan wrote. “Leadership has plainly chosen to ignore the experience of being Jewish on a college campus. I cannot continue to stand by and watch while my concerns and the concerns of other Jewish students are ignored.”

Raji’s statement

In a statement posted to IUSG’s Instagram account Wednesday, Raji addressed accusations that she neglected the experience of Jewish students and the rise of antisemitism on campus.

“I would like to address a specific claim that has been circulating, suggesting that I referred to a Jewish student as playing the victim. My original intent was to advocate for an equitable approach, highlighting the disparities in support for different student groups from the university,” Raji said. “However, I acknowledge that my words did not accurately convey this intention.”

She also acknowledged the issue of antisemitism on campus and apologized for the unintended harm her words caused.

“As a Black Muslim woman, I cannot ignore the intersectionality of my identities, which seems to fuel the scrutiny I face as a leader. However, it is important to emphasize that these identities inform my leadership and deepen my understanding of the current issue at hand,” Raji said. “The criticisms and claims against me are, unfortunately, an attack based on intersecting identities, echoing a historical pattern of undue criticism faced by Black women in positions of power.”

She wrote her administration has made efforts to initiate dialogue with student leaders from multiple organizations, such as IU Hillel and the Muslim Student Association.

“I, Aaliyah Raji, as your IUSG Student Body President, have consistently worked for the betterment of all students on campus. More importantly, I plan to continue this commitment to the student body for the duration of my tenure,” Raji said. “I urge our community to bridge divides through meaningful dialogue, recognizing the humanity in each of us. My commitment extends beyond words; I have and will actively engage with all stakeholders to provide the necessary support for those affected.”

Raji concluded her statement by encouraging the Congressional Oversight Committee to investigate these accusations. The Instagram post also encourages students to express their concerns using IUSG’s feedback form.

In a statement posted to IUSG’s Instagram on Thursday morning, members of the IUSG Steering Committee said they were blindsided by Kaswan and Pickett’s resignations and received their letter only a few hours before it was released.  The Steering Committee also said in their statement the Congress Oversight and Finance Committee will investigate the allegations to gather all relevant facts and evidence and ensure “a decision worthy of the Student Body is reached.”

Raji, Koda and Pickett did not respond to requests for comment.

Banks’ letter

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana sent a letter to IU President Pamela Whitten concerning Kaswan and Pickett’s resignations.

In the letter, Banks lists a series of questions posed for Whitten and other administrators. He listed a Dec. 1 deadline for the answers to his questions, including a count of antisemitic incidents on IU campuses since Oct. 7 and reports of any harassment or illegal activity after the Palestine Solidarity Committee’s Oct. 9 and Oct. 28 protests. Banks also asks for information concerning the IU Antisemitism Advisory Board, including the date of its last meeting and any recommendations or findings determined at the meeting. He asked whether Whitten or other IU leaders were present at that meeting and if they met with the IU Antisemitism Task Force since Oct. 7.

“As an IU graduate, allegations of antisemitism at my alma mater are personal and extremely concerning to me,” Banks wrote. “As a lawmaker, I would note that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits anti-Jewish and antisemitic discrimination. If IU administrators condone or tolerate campus antisemitism, the university could lose access to federal funding.”

Leaders from IU Hillel and the Palestine Solidarity Committee were not immediately available for comment. IU did not respond to a request for comment by publication.

This story will be updated.

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