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Purchase Community Reacts to Incident in the Student Services Building

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

By Thomas Dachik


A flag stating “We Stand with Israel” hung in the window of Paul Nicholson's office in the student services building prior to the incident (Photo Credit: @rtcpurch on Instagram)


A Purchase College student entered the office of School Administrator Paul Nicholson on Tuesday, Dec. 12 in the Student Services Building, attempting to tear down a flag in his window stating, “We Stand with Israel.” The incident is being investigated as a possible hate crime, according to the University Police Department (UPD).


A video posted on Instagram Tuesday evening by a group known as Raise the Consciousness at Purchase (RTC) shows the student walking past Nicholson in his office. After Nicholson asked the student how he could help, the student immediately grabbed the flag and attempted to tear it down.


The student has since been placed on interim suspension by the school.


“I’m just gonna take these down,” the student said, right before Nicholson resists, and attempts to remove the student physically.


“What the fuck man? Free Palestine, bro,” the student said.


Due to the investigation being underway, Nicholson told this reporter he is unable to comment.


Paul Nicholson, Director of EOP/MAP programs at Purchase College (Image via Purchase College website)


RTC, as they described in their Instagram post titled “What We Believe,” is a group of left-wing organizers at Purchase, claiming the campus needs “a radical presence to raise the consciousness at Purchase [to] provide students with a route to effect change on campus and worldwide.”


In addition to the video footage of the incident, the account posted their own statement Tuesday evening claiming Nicholson was the lone threat in this incident.


“Nicholson later told reporters he was assaulted by the student,” the runner of the account, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote. “This COMPLETELY FALSE and DANGEROUS allegation has ALREADY been reported in conservative news outlet MSN. Luckily, the student recorded the incident on their phone, in full, and the video clearly shows that Mr. Nicholson was the ONLY violent party.”


The anonymous account handler for this group also feels there is a double standard regarding how the school handles hate crimes and believes such standards date back to Oct. 7, when Israel declared war against Hamas.


“The double standard speaks for itself,” the admin of the account said. “Since Oct. 7, these student identities have been treated like they do not exist as the college refuses to condemn Palestinian loss of life or Israeli apartheid. At Purchase, we are constantly shown by administration that to them, some lives matter more than others and that is what we are trying to challenge.”


UPD released a statement to the student body Tuesday evening regarding the incident, alerting students that there will be a thorough investigation into the incident as a potential hate crime.


“Please know we take these matters extremely seriously,” UPD said. “Purchase College has zero tolerance for any act of hate or bias.”


Purchase College President Milagros Peña followed up on Tucker’s email with her own statement Wednesday evening, affirming to the students that immediate action is being taken and that despite bias causing division amongst Purchase students, it is a vital part of the education process and learning at the school.


“We can disagree on global politics, policies, and current events,” Peña said. “Debate, dialogue, and free speech are essential parts of learning and vital for a democratic society.


“However,” Peña added, “everyone on this campus has the right by law to work and learn in a safe environment, free from bias.”


Peña also urged the Purchase community to “help tone down the anger,” as the Gaza Health Ministry reports that 18,600 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 50,600 injured” since  Oct. 7, when Hamas killed 1,200 people in an attack and took 240 people hostage, according to CBC News

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