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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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OPINION | Tulane SDS should be abolished

Nathan Rich

After Hamas’s devastating attack on southern Israel in October, a new organization appeared on Tulane University’s campus: a Tulane chapter of Students for a Democratic Society. 

Since then, its members have cheered on an assault on Jewish students, doxxed and threatened others and most recently, falsely accused one of Tulane’s top professors, Walter Isaacson, of assaulting a student. 

SDS harshly criticizes and condemns the U.S, Israel and several Western countries while embracing Marxism and labeling fundamentalist terrorism as “justified resistance.” The group’s official slogan, quoted in their Instagram bio — “Dare to struggle. Dare to win.” — is a quote from Chairman Mao. This organization does not support democratic societies; it vehemently opposes them. 

SDS was a respectable organization on a national level throughout much of its early history. It was a pivotal group in support of the civil rights movement and has made strides for human rights and democracy domestically and abroad. The 2024 version of SDS, however, is nearly unrecognizable. Several SDS chapters, including Tulane’s, have devolved into anti-democratic, hateful places of antisemitism. 

The group has posted Instagram stories hailing terrorists as “martyrs” and defending Houthi terrorists in Yemen, praising a militant proxy group working on behalf of an autocratic Iranian government that vehemently opposes all things democratic, considers the United States a mortal enemy and kills and tortures its own citizens. The Houthi group’s official slogan and flag read “Allah is great, death to the U.S.A, death to Israel, a curse upon the Jews, victory to Islam.”

SDS’s short history has been riddled with instigation and provocation. Just last week, several of its members interrupted a guest speaker’s lecture during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, screaming and refusing to let the event take place. Tulane Professor Walter Isaacson, who was in attendance, responded by escorting the student out of the room so the lecture could continue. After the incident, SDS embarked on an inflammatory social media campaign against Isaacson, falsely accusing him of assault for removing the agitator. In the full video of the incident, which circulated on social media, it is clear that Isaacson did not assault anyone. He simply physically removed a disruptive agitator.

Since SDS’s birth, every single social media post and event the organization has hosted has attacked Israel’s right to exist. Not once has Tulane SDS made a statement on the treatment of Uyghurs in China, Iran’s sponsoring of anti-Western terrorism or mass ethnic killings in Sudan. 

The group has one purpose: opposing Israel’s existence. If the message and tactics of SDS were not so insidious and dangerous, the irony of a group supporting Houthi rebels and opposing the only true democracy in the Middle East, while claiming to support a democratic society, would be amusing. 

But nothing about this group is funny. 

Tulane’s administration must walk a fine line between protecting its students and maintaining freedom of speech. However, Tulane SDS has crossed the line time and time again, poking and prodding at the Tulane community while testing the limits of its own freedom of speech through provocative and incendiary messages. 

In SDS’s national guidelines, it pledges against “interference with any educational process or other university-sponsored activities,” as well as “disruptive or disorderly conduct.” This group’s silent endorsement of terrorism and disruptive, ill-willed provocations are unacceptable on our campus. 

If Tulane’s administration does not remove the recognized status of this student organization, the group’s actions will only escalate and become more extreme; it will set a dangerous precedent allowing chaos, hatred and fearmongering to overrun Tulane’s campus.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that SDS was a main organizer of the Oct. 26 rally on Tulane’s campus. SDS was not active at this time on Tulane’s campus, and the article has been updated as such. 

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