Showing Solidarity with Pro-Palestinian Student Activists 

Students at New York University protest for Palestine. Photo courtesy of Adam Gray on Instagram

Pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses are not new — in fact, the Foghorn has previously reported on demonstrations at USF. Now, they’re being elevated to another level. Across the nation, students are now pitching tents for Gaza. These “Gaza Solidarity Encampments” have now become targets at universities.

Students everywhere should be extremely concerned by crackdowns on campus pro-Palestinian protests. If students do not have the right to peacefully protest mass atrocities, academia can’t live up to its fullest potential. The Foghorn stands in solidarity with pro-Palestinian student protesters.

Pro-Palestinian students at Columbia University have faced some of the most intense opposition to their demonstrations. In January, protesters were allegedly attacked with a chemical weapon  — skunk water — by a counter protester with ties to the Israeli Defense Forces. Skunk water is commonly used by Israel against Palestinians in the West Bank and can cause intense nausea and vomiting for days. 

On Apr. 17, Columbia University President Nemat Shafik made the decision to enlist the New York Police Department to arrest more than 100 student protesters who had set up a “Gaza Solidarity” camp, suspending them.

Afterward, protests at Columbia only got bigger, and encampments spread nationwide, reaching as far as the University of California, Berkeley on the other side of the country. But where camps went, so did repression. Nearly 50 students were arrested at Yale University, and police also arrested protestors, including faculty, at New York University.

Just before Columbia’s arrests, leadership at the University of Southern California (USC) announced that class valedictorian Asna Tabassum would not be allowed to give the customary speech at the class of ‘24 graduation ceremony. Tabassum, a Muslim biomedical engineering major with a minor in “resistance to genocide” alledged the university made the decision to prevent her from voicing pro-Palestinian sentiments. USC claimed having Tabassum speak about Palestine at commencement would create “substantial security risks,” Vox reports. While USC should prioritize the safety of its students and their loved ones, they should support Tabassum’s right to voice her beliefs.
Universities should support student’s first-amendment rights to peacefully protest genocide and oppression in Gaza and the West Bank. Not allowing them to do so defeats the very purpose of higher education. Liberal education, which many American universities, including USF, base themselves on, is designed around creating critically thinking citizens who can engage ethically with civil society around them. By shutting down pro-Palestinian demonstrations, universities are shutting down the practical application of the very lessons they teach students. This repression threatens not just students, but the very spirit of academia itself.

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