(The Daily Signal) – Rep. Jim Banks, a Republican member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee and an Indiana congressman, has issued a letter to Butler University demanding answers over its investigation into Butler’s College Republicans chapter.
“Your investigation not only risks having a chilling effect on students’ free speech, but reasonably could lead outside observers, including myself, to believe that Butler University is targeting its College Republicans chapter because of its own political biases,” writes Banks in the letter, sent Dec. 20.
Butler University, located in Indianapolis, launched an official investigation into its College Republicans chapter after the group criticized an Oct. 12 Students for Justice in Palestine protest which included antisemitic chants.
The Daily Signal filmed the Butler student-led pro-Palestine protest on Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. Pro-Palestine protesters climbed on the Soldiers & Sailors Monument and chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a call for Jews to be ethnically cleansed from the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
Some Palestinian activists argue the call has a different meaning. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., posted on X Nov. 3, “From the river to the sea is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.”
Protesters also chanted “Not a victim, not a crime.” This chant suggests that because pro-Palestine students believe Israel isn’t a victim, it wasn’t a crime for Hamas terrorists to rape, torture, and slaughter women and children Oct. 7 near the border between southern Israel and the Gaza Strip. (Hamas has been the elected government of Gaza since 2007.)
The Butler University College Republicans chapter condemned the protest in an Instagram post Oct. 13, describing the chant of “Not a victim, not a crime!” as an “attempt to justify the cold-blooded attacks by an internationally designated terrorist organization on innocent civilians.”
The College Republicans wrote that these chants violated the university’s nondiscrimination policy, and called for Butler to uphold its policy and revoke SJP’s student organization status.
After complaints from members of Students for Justice in Palestine, Azure Swinford, Butler University’s assistant director of Institutional Equity and the Title IX coordinator, told the College Republicans to take the post down, according to emails from Swinford sent to The Daily Signal by the College Republicans.
Butler University has not responded to The Daily Signal’s request to confirm the emails’ authenticity.
The official investigation, which states that the College Republicans are under investigation for lying about protesters chanting “Not a victim, not a crime” with the goal of inciting violence and harassment against “Muslim” and “Palestinian” students, appears to have been settled before it began.
Swinford asked the College Republicans to take down the letter condemning the SJP protest before any investigation took place, and Butler College Republicans president Aidan Kohnke told The Daily Signal that they were ordered not to post “anything else that incites.”
The chapter heard nothing from the university about the status of the investigation for six weeks, and there is no evidence The Daily Signal was able to find that Butler is investigating SJP for the antisemitic chant-filled protest.
Butler University has refused to share any details with The Daily Signal concerning details on the ethics or basis for their investigation.
Now Banks is getting involved, sending the letter Wednesday to Butler University President James Danko, asking him to answer four questions concerning Butler’s investigation by Jan. 5:
- “What evidence did your office have that College Republicans ‘falsely accused’ Students for Justice in Palestine of antisemitic chants before launching a formal investigation?
- “What was the basis for demanding College Republicans remove an Instagram post and limit their free speech before the conclusion of your investigation?
- “Did the Butler University’s Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion launch a formal investigation into Students for Justice in Palestine following reports of antisemitic chants at the October 12th Monument Circle protest?
- “How many reports of antisemitic incidents on campus have been reported since the October 7th terrorist attack? How many of these reports have been investigated?”
Banks noted that multiple universities have taken action according to existing nondiscrimination and safety policies against Students for Justice in Palestine chapters, including Columbia University, Rutgers University, George Washington University, Brandeis University and the University of Florida.
It is unclear if Butler could be brought before the House Education and Workforce Committee like the presidents of Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and University of Pennsylvania were for a hearing Dec. 5.
However, Butler’s decision to accept federal funding carries with it the promise of required transparency and oversight in discrimination investigations—especially when they’re led by the federally mandated Title IX coordinator.