Temple Investigation Not Yet Completed

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A Temple University spokesman said that new witnesses had emerged and police were still investigating an Aug. 20 assault on a Jewish student by a pro-Palestinian supporter.

 

Temple University announced last week that it had completed its investigation into an alleged anti-Semitic incident on campus, but on Tuesday, a spokesman said that new witnesses had emerged and police were still conducting interviews.

 The school is not releasing details of its investigation into the incident, in which a pro-Palestinian student standing near a Students for Justice in Palestine table during an Aug. 20 campus event allegedly used anti-Semitic slurs and hit pro-Israel student Daniel Vessal in the face after an argument escalated.

 Temple spokesman Ray Betzner said the school has heard “so many different versions of what happened,” and is not releasing information in order to prevent bias in the judicial process. He also said the school had not yet sent the results to the Philadelphia district attorney’s office, which will determine if any charges will be filed.

 The university, which has not released the assailant’s name, citing privacy concerns, will also refer the case to an internal committee to decide what, if any, disciplinary actions it will take.

More than 10 students from the Temple Hillel met with the dean of students and the vice president of student affairs on Tuesday to discuss the incident and larger concerns about safety and Jewish life on campus. Campus officials agreed that they would examine whether SJP had “intentionally” organized a table during High Holidays at the Bell Tower, a campus landmark, and would monitor SJP students behavior during the Jewish holidays, according to Hillel Hoffmann, a Temple spokesman.

Becca Feldman, a student board member of the Temple Hillel, said people had noticed that the organization always booked the spot on Jewish holidays. The campus officials will also try to facilitate dialogue between Hillel and SJP.

“If SJP would come to the table, I would gladly sit with them,” said Feldman, who is chairing Israel programs at the Hillel. On Friday, she also met with a Muslim Student Association leader and said the meeting was productive.

“We’re going to meet again. We’re talking about some ideas" for programs "but nothing set in stone yet,” said Feldman.

 A number of Jewish leaders had called for restraint from community members who were concerned about the school’s response to the incident — the campus police did not arrest the alleged assailant — and urged patience until the investigation was complete.

 Despite the delay and lack of information being made public, several Jewish organizational officials said they are still giving the school time.

 “There is much pent-up emotion and fear among certain individuals surrounding this incident and the situation in the Middle East from the summer, so on the one hand the sooner” Temple completes its investigation and the district makes a decision about filing charges, “the better people will feel about making sure the incident is not pushed to the side,” said Nancy Baron-Baer, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.

 At the same time, she said, because of all the media exposure over this incident, “it’s all the more incumbent upon the university to do their job as thoroughly as possible.

 And if that means waiting a few more days to make sure that all the appropriate individuals who witnessed the events have an opportunity to have their voice heard, then I think the population needs to be patient.”

 While not critiquing the investigation itself, others said the school should take action against Students for Justice in Palestine, which has said the alleged assailant was not a member of their group and denied that its representatives used any anti-Semitic slurs.

“I am disappointed, and I think that the Jewish community is disappointed, that the university has not yet held SJP accountable for a physical assault that took place with someone” who stood near its table, said Rabbi Howard Alpert, CEO of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia.

“Whether or not he was part of the group, the school should hold students accountable whether they are members of their group or outside muscle brought in to intimidate those who they don’t like.”

 On the status of the investigation, Alpert said: “If this delay continues until the end of this week, then I think we’ll have reason to be concerned.”

 

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