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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Nine student organizations join MLC so far this semester, Students Supporting Israel denied entry

Students Supporting Israel is the first organization to be denied from the MLC in at least the past few years, according to MLC President Zack Maaieh.
The+Multicultural+Community+Space%2C+as+photographed+on+Sept.+5%2C+2022.+%28Hustler+Multimedia%2FNarenkumar+Thirmiya%29
Narenkumar Thirmiya
The Multicultural Community Space, as photographed on Sept. 5, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Narenkumar Thirmiya)

Nine of the 11 organizations that have applied for membership in the Vanderbilt Multicultural Leadership Council this semester were granted entry, with one awaiting a vote. For the first time in at least the past few years, an organization — Vanderbilt’s newly established chapter of Students Supporting Israel — was denied entry, according to MLC President Zack Maaieh, a junior.

Maaieh was unsure if another organization has ever been denied to the MLC. 

Vanderbilt’s chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace and the Taiwanese American Student Association were voted into the MLC in January, followed by Ballet Folklórico Mexicano de Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt Pride Serve, the Vanderbilt Association for South Asian Cuisine, the International Student Council, the Vanderbilt Iranian Student Association and oSTEM at Vanderbilt in February. The Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students was admitted to the MLC in March. 

Vanderbilt United Mission for Relief and Development has also applied to join the MLC, and voting will begin on their application on April 11. 

MLC prospective member organization application process

Applications to join the MLC by prospective member organizations are voted upon by one representative from each member organization and each MLC executive board member. After applying to join, an organization’s application is shared with the representatives and executive board. Executive members of the prospective organization are then invited to an MLC meeting to answer questions about their organization, its mission and its desire to join the MLC.

A two-thirds majority is required for an organization to join the MLC. For the March election, 51 member organizations and 16 executive board members were eligible to vote; 46 members voted in the election. 

Before voting in March, Maaieh said the MLC representatives and executive board held a closed meeting “primarily” to discuss other items on the ballot — VSG candidate and amendment endorsement — as well as the prospective member organization applications. A closed meeting is required for endorsement voting by the MLC Constitution.  

Maaieh said voting was open for one day in March due to the number of items on the ballot; this time frame can change from election to election. 

Maaieh stated that prospective MLC member organization applications have nearly tripled this academic year compared to last year. Six organizations applied and were admitted to the MLC last semester. He explained that this trend could be due to more student organizations being established this year than in years past and the MLC’s “appealing” and “welcoming” nature. Student Organizations, Leadership and Service Director DeAnte’ Smith did not respond to The Hustler’s request for comment on whether more student organizations have been created this year compared to previous years. 

“[The increase in prospective member organization applications is] a testament to the strength of the community we have built here on campus. All of our organizations support one another, either by attending each other’s events, sharing them or by uplifting one another’s voices,” Maaieh said. “Our community is incredibly diverse, yet we stand together when one is harmed.”

Denial of SSI 

SSI President Ryan Bauman, a senior, said SSI is “appalled” by being denied entry to the MLC. Besides JVP, other MLC member organizations specifically related to the Israel-Palestine conflict include ‘Dores for Israel — which is part of Vanderbilt Hillel — and Vanderbilt’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine — a secular advocacy group.

“A council that aspires to promote interfaith, intercultural, informative dialogue and collaboration, that constantly promotes the notion of ‘Coexistence’ cannot coexist with students who support Israel,” Bauman said in a message to The Hustler. “We are sad that this is the state of our campus climate, but we are not surprised given recent events on campus.”

Bauman said he is hopeful that the MLC will change its mind on allowing SSI to join and “accept [SSI’s] olive branch.” SSI Vice President Maya Levinson, also a senior, said joining the MLC would increase SSI members’ ability to share their perspectives and would contribute to the MLC’s values of collaboration and cross-cultural dialogue. 

“The MLC is home to student groups with wide-ranging perspectives on Israel, and SSI offers unique perspectives that will enrich all members of the MLC,” Levinson said in a message to The Hustler. “Not only would SSI’s admission to the MLC enhance the diversity of the Council, but it will also provide our organization the benefit of learning from the diverse perspectives of the other member organizations.”

Maaieh explained that prospective member organizations can reapply for entry, but a revote would only occur with the prospective member organization resubmitting its application to join. He emphasized that the voting process is “not a bureaucratic decision.”

“Our council voted on it. The consideration of applications is done by the collective of our community, so if they [SSI] wish to understand the decision or have a different outcome in the future, they need to appeal to every member organization and board member that has a vote in that election,” Maaieh said in a message to The Hustler.

Maaieh declined to comment on how he voted on SSI’s application to join the MLC. He also declined to provide a list of representatives and executive board members who voted on SSI joining the MLC — as well as a list of those who voted against SSI — to ensure the "safety" of those who voted from. 

Junior Saksham Saksena serves as the president and founder of Vanderbilt Pride Serve — established earlier in Spring 2024 — and the co-president and co-founder of VASAC — established in Spring 2023, alongside junior Sagnik Yarlagadda. He stated that the MLC’s “track record” in accepting organizations is strong. 

“[The MLC has] taken basically everyone since most organizations who apply fit in very well with the MLC,” Saksena said. “From what I’ve heard, they basically vote everyone in because everyone is usually a good fit.” 

Accepted organizations’ goals with MLC

Leaders of JVP, Ballet Folklórico Mexicano de Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt Pride Serve and VASAC all stated that the application and approval process to join the MLC was straightforward for their organizations. The former president of JVP, who is being kept anonymous for protection from professional retribution, stated that JVP’s acceptance to the MLC was “logical” to them.

“MLC is made up of groups that are traditionally marginalized or less advocated for, and I think those types of people can sympathize with the Palestinian cause because it’s a cause of unheard and underrepresented people,” the former JVP president said. 

The former JVP president said joining the MLC will help JVP work toward its goal of advocating for Palestinian freedom and raising awareness of the diversity of Jewish views on the State of Israel. JVP became a registered student organization at Vanderbilt in early October 2023, before Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

“Being in the MLC provides access to organizations that we wouldn’t have even known existed or wouldn’t have known who their president was, so it opens the door to collaboration, and with that collaboration comes more conversation,” the former JVP president said. “People understand the diversity of opinion that exists if they didn’t understand that before.” 

Junior Salwa Daouk, president of Ballet Folklórico Mexicano de Vanderbilt, also stated that her organization is excited to collaborate with other MLC organizations. Ballet Folklórico Mexicano de Vanderbilt became a registered student organization in the 2022-23 academic year.

“I’m excited for the potential to get to work with other organizations within the MLC that also have to do with similar populations of Latinas and to be able to have that network,” Daouk said. “There’s a lot of potential.”

Saksena said his organizations and the MLC’s shared interest in increasing campus inclusivity inspired his organizations to try to join. He echoed his interest in collaborating with other MLC organizations and using the Multicultural Community Space on campus, among other benefits of being part of the MLC. 

“Both organizations are really key in raising inclusivity on campus, and MLC fits in really well with our goals. It was a clear choice for us to try to join their organization [the MLC] to both complement our own missions and help work toward their mission as well,” Saksena said. 

Parker Smith contributed reporting to this piece.

View comments (19)
About the Contributors
Rachael Perrotta
Rachael Perrotta, Former Editor-in-Chief
Rachael Perrotta ('24) is from Cranston, R.I., and majored in cognitive studies, political science and communication of science and technology and minored in gender and sexuality studies in Peabody College. She was also previously Senior Advisor and News Editor. If she's not pressing you for a comment, she's probably trying to convince you that she's over 5 feet tall, cheering on the Red Sox or wishing Nashville had a beach. She can be reached at [email protected].
Narenkumar Thirmiya
Narenkumar Thirmiya, Staff Photographer
Narenkumar Thirmiya ('24) is from Orlando, Fla., and is majoring in neuroscience and medicine, health, and society in the College of Arts and Science. When not shooting for The Hustler, he is streaming TV, playing the piano or guitar or exploring nature photography. You can reach him at [email protected].
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Comments (19)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
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N
Nacho
3 months ago

So, respect for all cultures, except for Jewish national culture, as expressed in the Jewish liturgy for millennia. Sure, checks out

A
Anonymous
3 months ago

Awful reporting. It does nothing to address the key question – WHY was SSI denied? Only reason I can come up with is antisemitism, but would love a better explanation!

Last edited 3 months ago by Anonymous
A
angry vanderbilt student
3 months ago
Reply to  Anonymous

there are already multiple orgs in the MLC that represent Jewish culture. Supporting a genocide is not a “culture,” it is just a morally repugnant political position to take, so there is no reason for SSI to be allowed into MLC. Thank god the member orgs had the clarity of mind to reject them.

V
VU18
3 months ago
Reply to  Anonymous

I mean the answer is obviously that the rest of MLC is opposed to SSI’s mission and didn’t want to hang out with them! No antisemitism in sight.

L
Lo Meisel
3 months ago

Literally just look at the names: it’s MultiCULTURAL Leadership Council. Supporting Israel isn’t a culture. Therefore, SSI doesn’t belong in MLC. There are plenty of orgs in the MLC that represent Jewish people (because that IS a culture), but there aren’t – and shouldn’t be – any orgs in the MLC that are explicitly and exclusively focused on advocating for a political position.

Last edited 3 months ago by Lo Meisel
D
disappointed but not surprised
3 months ago
Reply to  Lo Meisel

The exact same thing could be said about Students for Justice in Palestine, which has been a member of the MLC for years. How do you justify including one while excluding the other?

J
Jay
3 months ago

Hillel was already in the MLC, so both sides were already included. SSI would have been unnecessary and given their track record, more divisive than Hillel.

J
Jon
3 months ago
Reply to  Jay

You guys are clearly contradicting yourselves. First, SSI shouldn’t be let in because it’s a political org unlike Hillel which is only cultural, and now SSI shouldn’t be let in because Hillel is a political pro-Israel org by virtue of being Jewish. Also, by your logic, because SJP was already representing the “pro-palestine side”, the JVP should not have been admitted.

J
Jay
3 months ago
Reply to  Jon

Is that so? Then I agree, SJP should not be admitted. It’s not only divisive but a pro-Hamas group at many universities. Furthermore it’s a political group as opposed to a cultural one. I stand by that SSI should not be part of the MLC.

J
jay keen
3 months ago

Just the Leftist, Islamist alliance against the Jews. Of course the alliance always has a few token post Jewish, As A Jew Uncle Toms to make it all appear nice.

C
current student
3 months ago

This is absurd. I think there is a potentially valid argument that SSI is a politically focused organization instead of a purely cultural organization but the same could be said for JVP. Either both should be allowed or neither.

A
Anonymous
3 months ago

SSI straight up told MLC members they are distinguished by not being a Jewish org…it’s not about them being Jewish

A
Anonymous
3 months ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Israel is a multi-ethnic, multicultural democracy. This issue about not allowing a group in because of their national origin. While Israel is important to Jews, SSI is inclusive of other ethnic groups and religions that identify as Israeli too.

B
Berel Dov Lerner
3 months ago

Jews have contributed so much to America’s culture, science, and universities but it appears that Salk’s vaccine, Leonard Bernstein’s music, Speilberg’s films, Feinman’s physics and Harold Bloom’s literary scholarship will not hold back the advance of antisemitism.

D
disappointed but not surprised
3 months ago

The MLC has given up on hiding their antisemitism, if they ever tried hiding it to begin with. This is not only hateful, but sends the terrifying message that Jewish students are not welcome in any cultural org on campus outside of Hillel and Chabad. Apparently, multiculturalism doesn’t include the only Jewish nation in the entire world.

A
angry vanderbilt student
3 months ago

There are already three Jewish orgs in the MLC. There was nothing antisemitic about this decision — the MLC just decided they didn’t want to admit an org whose stated goal is provide political cover for a genocide

D
disappointed but not surprised
3 months ago

The accusation that Israel is committing genocide is not only incorrect, but itself an antisemitic double standard. Israel is not conducting this war to exterminate a group of people based on their identity, like what happened in the Holocaust, they are fighting against Hamas, a terrorist group that carried out a despicable attack on Israeli citizens as part of their (actually genocidal) goal of wiping out Jews. While Hamas operates out of hospitals, mosques, and homes, and uses civilians as human shields, Israel sends out warnings in advance of air strikes and otherwise does everything in its ability to protect innocent life while fighting a war. They are not perfect, but why do we expect them to be when we do not hold other nations to the same standard? I could go on, and if you’d like for me to share sources I gladly will, but for now I will conclude by saying that you cannot include SJP as a member and bar SSI without looking hypocritical and antisemitic.

Last edited 3 months ago by disappointed but not surprised
J
Jay
3 months ago

There’s no obvious answer to whether Israel is committing genocide, let the ICJ decide that. It’s not a clear cut answer due to conflicting evidence. For example, there have been powerful Israeli government officials alluding to exterminating the entire Palestinian areas to resettle with Jews, or stating that Palestinian lives are worth less than Israeli. And of course Hamas is a genocidal terrorist group. And people in IDF TikToks repeating those types of ideas? Is that considered genocidal intent? Hard to say.

As for your idea that arguing that Israel is genocidal is antisemitic, do you actually know what that word means? I feel like you may be misusing it yet again…

J
Jay
3 months ago

This is the most ridiculous comment I have heard. Didn’t you read that Hillel is part of the MLC? Does SSI sound like a cultural organization or a purely political one? So they’re anti-Semitic by not admitting a political group? Lol.