OPINION: Stop censoring Palestinian voices on campus

(Sasha Matthews • The Student Life)

From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters, pro-Palestinian voices are facing backlash and censorship across college campuses.

With organizations that aim to compile and track pro-Palestinian student activists, many Palestinian, Muslim and/or Arab students are forced to keep quiet and hide their identities for fear of risking their livelihoods. Recent examples from Harvard and Columbia of students being doxxed for their support of Palestine make us worried that a lack of administrative support at our colleges will lead students to the same fate.

As college students, we have seen that when Palestinian students attempt to speak out, their personal experiences are politicized and deemed controversial. We went to high school together and went on to attend colleges on opposite coasts: Pomona College and the University of Vermont (UVM). No matter our location, we have noticed Palestinian students’ voices silenced in the name of “safety.” But now, more than ever, it is important to listen to what they have to say.

We all come to college expecting to find a diversity of perspectives and opinions, whether it be at UVM or across the 5Cs. Not only are colleges failing Palestinian students, but, in suppressing dissent, they are acting counterintuitively to their educational mission for all students.

Recently, UVM administration canceled a talk sponsored by the Will Miller Social Justice Lecture Series where prominent Palestinian poet and journalist Mohammed El-Kurd was supposed to speak due to “safety concerns,” according to an Oct. 23 NBC article. Further information on the exact reasoning for the cancellation was not given.

The event had been planned for months ahead of time and was canceled against the wishes of the events’ sponsors and organizers, according to an Oct. 23 VTDigger article.

Over 2,000 people have signed the petition sponsored by the Champlain Valley chapter of the DSA denouncing the event’s cancellation, demonstrating the public’s support for free speech.

Despite UVM’s claim that they didn’t have the resources to ensure the safety of the event, they made sure to have plenty of police officers tag along the ensuing protest against the University’s decision.

Out on the West Coast, 5C presidents sent out emails in response to the recent events in Palestine and Israel. These emails vehemently condemned Hamas’ actions and informed students of events being held with the purpose of support. UVM students received similar emails on the subject. No email from either college mentioned the words “Palestine” or “Palestinians” despite the fact that thousands of Palestinians had also been killed in that time frame.

In Claremont, 5C administrators held events to mourn Israeli lives that were intended for Jewish students, such as a vigil held by the McAlister Center for Spiritual Life for the Jewish community at the Claremont Colleges. There were no such events endorsed by the administration for Palestinian students.

When the Claremont chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine held a vigil and rally and invited the college presidents, campus security was in attendance instead.The events that followed continued to disservice Palestinian students. On Oct. 20, students set up a memorial at the Coop Fountain which was dismantled by the college five days later. On Oct. 27, during Pomona’s parents weekend, students held a demonstration and another memorial. The second memorial was dismantled within hours.

On the East Coast, Hillel recently announced a “Grief and Loss Processing Session” partnering with UVM Counseling and Psychiatry services, explicitly centering the Israeli perspective. No such counterpart mental health support exists for students grieving the loss of thousands of Palestinian lives in Gaza, as the Israeli state continues to indiscriminately bomb civilians.

Administrative support for Palestinian students is essentially nonexistent. But when these students try to create their own support, they face backlash. Palestinian vigils were student-run and politicized, while vigils for Jewish students were college-organized and publicized. However, these events were intended for Jewish students — such as a vigil held by the McAlister Center for Spiritual Life for the Jewish community at the Claremont Colleges — with no regard for the needs of Palestinian students.

Neither Jewish students nor Muslim and/or Arab students are strangers to fearing for their safety due to their identity on campus. The difference is, while Jewish students are given avenues to express their concerns, Middle Eastern students face the threat of doxxing and harassment for doing the same.

In a piece covering student responses from TSL and other campus newspapers, Palestinian students chose to remain anonymous, while other students were willing to at least give their first names for the publications.

UVM and the 5Cs aren’t the only campuses where tensions are boiling over: all over the country, pro-Palestinian student activists are being met with censorship and repression, according to an Oct. 27 article by Democracy Now. At Princeton, a pro-Palestinian student protestor was assaulted by a staff member, according to an Oct. 31 article in the Daily Princetonian.

The violence in Palestine is ongoing and student responses can and will continue. It is essential to uplift and listen to Palestinian voices on our college campuses. Our colleges should support and allow Palestinian students to express themselves and have agency over the spaces where they grieve. No student, regardless of their religion or ethnicity, should feel unsafe on campus because of their support for the people of Palestine.

Dania Anabtawi PO ’26 is a sophomore at Pomona College. 

Ayelet Kaminski is a sophomore at the University of Vermont.

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