As the Israel-Hamas war enters its sixth week, a number of demonstrations and calls to action have taken place on the Hilltop. On Nov. 9, USF community members attended an afternoon “Shut it Down for Palestine” rally and an evening vigil remembering “all of the martyrs in Palestine.” An “End the Siege on Gaza” student-led rally is scheduled for Nov. 14.
While students are leading demonstrations, faculty, staff, and alums have also mobilized around the war. On Nov. 10, the Foghorn’s editorial team learned of a faculty-led “USF Community Member Statement” calling for a cease-fire in Gaza, which, at the time of print on Nov. 14, has been signed by 808 USF community members.
The document, which is circulating via a Google Form, states that all signatories “stand opposed to the genocide in Gaza, and believe its our moral obligation to ask our USF community to do so as well.” At the time of publication, 500 students, 119 faculty and librarians, 127 alums, 53 staff members, and 9 other community members have signed their name to the cause.
The faculty-led statement was published on Nov. 3 and aims to acquire 1,000 total signatories. Psychology professor Saera Khan spoke to the Foghorn on behalf of the group of faculty who published the statement. “This statement emerged from students asking administration and faculty to make a statement about what is happening in Gaza,” Khan said.
President Father Fitzgerald, S.J. released an Oct. 9 statement “On the human suffering in Afghanistan, Israel, and Palestine” and an Oct. 18 statement “Embracing the sacredness of every human life” addressing the war. While he acknowledged the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, he did not condemn the violence or speak to the political factors at play.
On Oct. 26, Fitzgerald, along with 100 other university presidents, signed the “Universities United Against Terrorism” statement, which says they “stand with Israel,” and denounce “Hamas and terrorism.”
Fitzgerald received push back from the USF community due to this signature, and on Nov. 10 sent a community-wide email where he stated, “I chose to sign in order to add my voice in solidarity with Israelis and Palestinians.” A further in-depth, op-ed response to this letter can be found in “Palestinians Need Action, Not Prayers” on page 8 of this issue.
“This may be understandable,” Khan said, citing a Nov. 7 reporting from the Chronicle of Higher Education, which found that colleges and universities around the country are refraining from showing support for Israel or Palestine, due the pressures of protecting free speech while prioritizing the safety of Israeli and Palestinian students. “At the same time,” she continued, “it seems especially important that an institution that centers social justice would make a statement.
Julia Laverde, a senior critical diversity studies major, signed the statement in response to Fitzgerald’s signature on the “Universities United Against Terorrism” document.“The 800 of us who have co-signed the community member statement are saying ‘not in our name,’” they said. “We refuse to allow our University’s administration to continue acting in opposition to USF’s declared values of ‘changing the world from here’ and ‘cura personalis’ by supporting Israel’s ongoing genocide of Palestinians, both with their words and with their silence.”
The community statement not only calls on action from the University, but further calls on President Biden “to demand and facilitate an immediate cease-fire” and “refrain from sending any more weapons to the Israeli government.”
Senior environmental studies major Jade Carter learned of the statement through Instagram. “I thought that the fact of students, faculty, and staff uniting to make a joint statement to and for the University was a pretty profound move,” she said. “Any way that we can push the call for a cease-fire is imperative.”
The “USF Community Member Statement” argued that the proposed cease-fire aligns with USF’s core values. It reads: “As community members of a Jesuit institution of higher learning, committed to ‘cura personalis,’ care for the whole person, we call upon all to consider what it means to bear witness to the plight of Palestinian people in Gaza facing genocidal Israeli state violence.”
Khan called the statement “a grassroots effort in creating a voice for faculty, students, staff, and alumni who believe that our mission would compel us to advocate for a cease-fire and stand against human suffering.”
Senior business analytics major Jocelyn Luciani signed the petition after seeing a classmate share it on social media. “It’s important as students, faculty, and alumni representing an institution, that we collectively stand against the genocide in Gaza,” she said.
Senior performing arts and social justice major Fayola Jean said that she signed it out of a duty to the martyred Palestinians. “We learn about the Holocaust all the time and we always talk about how, ‘Oh, we wish we could have made a difference,’ or how wrong it was, but it’s like — when this is happening in the world right now, what do we do? So I’m on top of like signing all those things, protesting, sharing posts. Revolution is happening!”
The statement ended by stating, “we mourn for the Palestinian and Israeli civilians killed, we condemn the rising tide of Islamophobia and antisemitism in the wake of these events, and we continue to fight with everything we have for the living.”
Editor’s note: Foghorn staff members Jordan DelFiugo, Niki Sedaghat, Jordan Maralit, Inés Ventura, Samantha Avila Griffin, Kyla Menconi, and Chisom Okorafor are signatories to the statement.
Editor’s Note: This story was edited on Nov. 17 at 4:50 p.m. to address factual inaccuracies. Professor Khan is a psychology professor and President Father Fitzgerald, S.J. released an Oct. 9 and Oct. 18 statement. Julia Laverde’s quote was edited for accuracy.