Syracuse University cancels Middle East studies lecture over ‘safety concerns’

Syracuse University canceled a “teach-in” lecture by a visiting Middle East studies scholar that was scheduled for Tuesday due to safety concerns.

In a message to the Syracuse community, chancellor and president Kent Syverud said the school was “not able to confidently ensure the safety of the attendees, the speaker and our whole campus community,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by NBC News.

Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, the founding director of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies Program at San Francisco State University, had been scheduled to speak, the school said.

She also founded The Institute for the Critical Study of Zionism and is a vocal critic of the Israeli government.

“Syracuse University cares deeply about free speech and remains strongly committed to academic freedom. We support those seeking to become better informed about important public issues, such as the conflict in the Middle East,” Syverud wrote. “However, in the current environment, it is vital that all of us plan carefully and in advance to ensure free speech also occurs in a time, place and manner that takes into account the safety and security of our whole community.”

Syverud said the event would be held “when it can be done safely.”

He added that a faculty member involved in planning the lecture expressed concerns with the school’s public safety department.

No other details were given about what if anything in particular prompted those safety concerns. However, the event would have occurred two days after threats were made against Jewish students at Cornell University.

The cancellation also comes in the wake of the University of Pennsylvania fielding criticism from donors and alumni for holding a Palestinian literature festival in September, weeks before Hamas’ October attack.