OPINION: Don’t sacrifice our community for the sake of campus advocacy

An abstract drawing of two figures, one orange and one blue. They each reach out a hand, and the areas where their fingers intersect are purple.
(Sasha Matthews • The Student Life)

As the ‘Claremont Bubble’ has been shaken to its core by events of indescribable violence and devastation across Israel and Palestine, students have entered an unprecedented time of conflict within our community. A difficult debate suddenly faces outsiders to these affected groups over our right to publicly advocate for the causes we care deeply about, versus the responsibility to protect the sanctity of the campus environment for all.

Many students have become involved because we are the sort of people who chose to divert our time and attention to these global events, regardless of how they directly affect our own lives. Others care greatly because people they are close to have asked for support and we want to meet such requests with the appropriate levels of knowledge and respect. For these reasons among others, students who had no previous association with the regions or cultures involved in the conflict are suddenly embroiled in a war halfway across the world and its associated conflicts here on campus. I refer to these students — myself included — without prior ties to what is happening in Israel and Palestine as “outsiders.”

Throughout this piece, I seek solely to address this outsider population and their role specifically in the on-campus environment. I implore students to implement a way of conducting ourselves while we continue to navigate the intensely charged atmosphere that is interacting with these global political events within our community.

The first and primary thing I encourage is that no one shuts themselves off from everything that is currently happening across these countries. Many people around us, whether or not they have chosen to publicize it, are struggling deeply with the reverberations of such events. While some of us may have the privilege of closing ourselves off emotionally, we must resist this urge. Our abilities to form and hold committed personal beliefs on these matters are of great importance, both at present and as we progress past our education into the greater global community. For the people suffering, both in countries we’ve never been to and at the desks next to us, paying attention to their ordeal while caring enough to understand their perspectives and form our own is the least every single student here can do.

However, while we continue to research and mold our positions on these conflicts, I urge us as outsiders to make sure our perspectives always come second to the good of our community. On campus, I cannot condone advocacy at the expense of empathy and I implore others to work against this instinct as well. Those of us on the outside have the privilege of developing our opinions in a relative emotional vacuum, but many others do not. Opinions catalyzed by deep personal and emotional connections to events, which we as outsiders inherently lack, should not be treated as targets for students’ armchair political takes. Prioritizing empathy by supporting our insider peers through and despite ideological differences must be our current aim.

In our campus community, outsiders have a different role to play right now. We should view this role as equally important to the betterment of the world around us and simultaneously more appropriate to our lived experiences. At present, it unfortunately remains impossible in many spaces to fight publicly for aspects of our beliefs without deeply hurting some involved group. While loud political displays on campus will be seen as allyship to some, such actions will inevitably be interpreted as hurtful opposition by others. As outsiders, we must accept a responsibility to refrain from advocating in the ways we know can cause this harm.

We all want to feel as if we individually have the power and self-determination to be truly helpful to those affected. However, it is crucial that our attempts to do so avoid spreading more harm and pain throughout campus, however unintentional it may be. While solidarity and focused activism are crucial on a global scale as we strive to enact positive change, we also must recognize that there are appropriate times, places and ways to go about this. The campus community is its own ecosystem, and that carries a different set of considerations. As outsiders, we all must carefully examine the actual impact of our involvement in the public and often provocative displays we observe around campus. We must consider that there are other ways we can advocate for our personal positions and show solidarity with those impacted that don’t actively harm students on the other sides of issues. Focusing on quieter forms of support, such as donating, personal boycotts or calling representatives, can mitigate the negative effects of advocacy. Actions such as these should be the focus, while others must be avoided, as we work to advocate for our informed positions specifically within this environment.

A better balance must be struck between outsiders advocating for their beliefs, while also retaining the safe and supportive atmosphere we should feel on campus, especially those who are most actively suffering and grieving. It’s clear that right now we have failed in the second part of this balance. We must work to rectify this in the future for the sake of our entire community.

Izzy Sabatino PO ’26 is a philosophy major from Baltimore, MD. She does most of her writing in her head while on a bike.

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