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The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

LYBW keynote canceled without explanation


Last week’s Clarke Forum event, which was scheduled to serve as the keynote address for Love Your Body Week (LYBW), was canceled just days before the event was to take place. 


Neither of the event organizers – The Clarke Forum and the Women’s and Gender Resource Center (WGRC) – nor Dickinson administrators announced an official reason for the cancellation. The scheduled speaker, Sonalee Rashatwar, has previously faced professional backlash for expressing fervently pro-Palestinian views on social media. 


Rashatwar is a social worker and co-founder of the Radical Therapy Center in Philadelphia, who is also known online as “TheFatSexTherapist.” Since Oct. 8, 2023, Rashatwar has consistently posted about Palestine on their social media account, making calls to stop colonization and genocide by Israel. 


The caption of their first post on the subject says “clients and colleagues, i too see the zionism, anti palestinian racism, and white supremacy in therapy and eating disorder space” [sic] with a flushed face staring emoji. They went on to say “if we want to end oppression, we have to make sure we are grasping at the root,” referencing connections between white supremacy, Zionism, U.S. imperialism, police militarization and Black Lives Matter.


They were scheduled to deliver a lecture entitled “Body Positivity and the Fall of Western Civilization” in an event co-sponsored by The Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and The WGRC.


A Clarke Forum pamphlet outlining the semester’s lectures described the event as “[aiming] to foster a nuanced understanding of what makes a good body by addressing the intersectionality of race and dismantling the anti-Black colonial origins of fatphobia.” It also said that analyzing white supremacy is essential to dismantling perceptions that a healthy body has to be thin.


The event was taken off of EngageD and the Clarke Forum’s website by Sunday, Feb. 11. Clarke Forum representatives announced at Columbia professor Eunji Kim’s lecture on Feb. 12 that Rashatwar’s talk, scheduled for the next day and still included in the “Upcoming Events” section of the program, had been canceled.


When reached for comment, Rashatwar said “they didn’t give me an explanation” for the event’s cancellation, but declined to comment further. Individuals at both offices organizing the event, including student and professional staff, also declined to comment on the nature of the cancellation.


Both the college’s Office of Equity and Inclusion and the Provost’s Office confirmed that they participated in conversations around the decision to cancel the talk, but gave no explicit reasoning behind the decision either publicly or to The Dickinsonian.


Chief Diversity Officer Tony Boston and Provost Renée Cramer said they were involved in discussions about canceling the event and support the decision to do so, but both administrators said the final decision to rescind Rashatwar’s invitation was made by the Clarke Forum and WGRC. The Clarke Forum did not reply to a request to comment, and Katie Schweighofer, Director of the WGRC, was unable to comment. 


Late in the night of Feb. 12, Rashatwar posted on their public Instagram story saying they had been “suspended without explanation” from an adjunct sex therapy teaching job at Thomas Jefferson University on Oct. 9, 2023 due to their pro-Palestine stance. They also posted a similar claim on Oct. 20, 2023, saying they were “being censored at work” and had been put on paid leave.


While strongly posting against genocide in Gaza, at least one of Rashatwar’s posts indicated pro-Hamas sentiments. A since-deleted Instagram post includes a screenshot of a tweet saying “After getting yelled at by enough liberals, I’ve finally come around to the idea of supporting the lesser of two evils. Therefore, I would like to announce I officially stand with Hamas.”


When addressed by one user who said “there are less incendiary ways to express support for Palestine” than antisemitism, Rashatwar replied saying “not really sure why you’re catering to the feelings of genocide supporters.”


The Clarke Forum lecture is not the first event nationwide with a pro-Palestinian speaker to be canceled after the Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7. Some prior instances include Palestinian poet Mohammed el-Kurd who was set to give a lecture at the University of Vermont in October, that was canceled the week of the event, and an event with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) at Arizona State University was canceled in November.


Both of these institutions cited concerns for safety and security in the reason for canceling their events. In Rashatwar’s case, however, Dickinson has remained silent.


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About the Contributor
Walker Kmetz ’25
Walker is a junior political science major from Shavertown, Pa. and is one of the 2023-24 Co-Editors-in-Chief. They previously served as Life & Style Editor in 2022-23, and have been writing with The Dickinsonian since freshman year. Some of their favorite stories they've written include a profile on John E. Jones when he became Dickinson's president, attempts to bring back a special interest house for the African diaspora, and when John Fetterman spoke in Carlisle. Outside of The Dickinsonian, they are also involved with WDCV, Random Acts of Kindness and Dickinson Votes. In their free time, they love reading, finding new music, photography, and playing video games.

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    Sarah MFeb 23, 2024 at 11:18 am

    As a Dickinson alum and a former member of the Dickinsonian, I applaud the editorial team for publishing this piece. It is extremely disappointing that our beloved school is clearly complicit in allowing a genocide to occur. I thought Dickinson was in favor of allowing voices to be heard and that was why I loved the Clarke Forum events. Clearly this is not the case now. I urge Dickinson administration to make their voices clear.