Temple Fest charges spark discussion among students

The university and city will hold hearings on the Welcome Week incident.

Abdel Aziz Jalil, the Temple student who allegedly struck senior management information systems major Daniel Vessal at Temple Fest in late August, was charged Sept. 10 by the Philadelphia District Attorney for simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.

Aziz Jalil’s criminal trial is set for Oct. 1. Student Body President Ray Smeriglio said Temple will also hold its own hearing on the incident to look for potential violations of the Student Code of Conduct.

Many Temple students supported the decision to charge Aziz Jalil, stating their displeasure that the altercation ever occurred.

News outlets like truthrevolt.org reported Aziz Jalil used ethnic slurs after he hit Vessal following discussion about the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Aziz Jalil does not face charges related to discrimination.

Temple’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, a pro-Palestine organization, said in a statement that Aziz Jalil never used slurs toward Vessal. Some SJP members are Aziz Jalil’s friends, but he is not a member of the organization.

Freshman engineering major Elaine Vallejos supported the decision to charge Aziz Jalil.

“You can’t go around hitting everyone who doesn’t agree with you religiously, especially if you’re choosing to go to such a diverse school like Temple,” Vallejos said.

“People need to be religiously tolerant,” she added.

Junior anthropology major Marissa Rubin said she was happy Aziz Jalil was charged.

Rubin, a Jewish student, was involved in planning protests against Temple’s handling of the incident. Those protests were later canceled.

“All Temple students, and all people in general, deserve the right to feel safe on campus,” Rubin said. “To physically harm another person because they differ from you in some way can never and should never be tolerated. We must always take a stand against violence.”

A university spokesperson declined to comment on the charges “in order to prevent bias in the judicial process.”

Tasha Jamerson, a spokesperson for the DA’s office, also declined to comment.

Samuel Konstantinov, a senior environmental science major and member of the Jewish community, supported the charges.

“The charges seem pretty appropriate for what [Aziz Jalil] did,” Konstantinos said. “The way I see it, if you make the choice to punch someone, there is no reason you shouldn’t deal with the consequences.”

Smeriglio said that because Jalil was not a member of SJP, Temple would not take action against the organization.

Most members of Temple’s SJP organization declined to be interviewed.

Walter Smolarek, a senior anthropology major and SJP member, said “the buzz that has been created by supporters of Israel around such a routine case clearly points to an attempt to silence pro-Palestine speech on campus.”

“Temple SJP will continue to carry out its work in solidarity with Palestine as we always have – in a nonviolent manner that opposes all forms of bigotry,” Smolarek said.

Some students were upset with the way Temple handled the incident.

Halana Dash, a sophomore English major and member of the Jewish community, disagreed with Temple’s handling of the incident.

“I don’t think that Temple usually does a good job taking care of these things, whether it’s related to SJP and Hillel or any other minority group,” Dash said. “Their statements are always very vague. Their statements are always very general. Temple is a very diverse school with very large minority communities, and [the administration] needs to recognize that.”

Smeriglio maintained that the university’s response was acceptable.

“Temple did their piece in staying unbiased and completing the investigation and then handing [the results] over to the district attorney,” Smeriglio said.

“Sanctions and consequences to your actions do vary upon the severity of the act, so there’s really no confirming what will actually happen,” he added.

Nathalie Swann can be reached at nathalie.swann@temple.edu

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