University of Connecticut students gathered at Fairfield Way on Monday to protest Governor Ned Lamont and UConn Interim President Dr. Radenka Maric’s decision to visit Israel on an economic development mission.
Maric announced her trip in an Instagram post Tuesday.
“I’m thrilled to be joining [Lamont] and other Connecticut representatives in Israel later this month as we focus on strengthening connections between the state and members of Israel’s innovation ecosystem,” read the post’s caption. “UConn has a lot to offer companies looking to expand in the U.S. and we’re grateful to have a chance to help strengthen the bond between our regions.”
At the protest, members of UConn’s Students for Justice in Palestine gave speeches in regard to their thoughts on the university’s association and partnership with Israel, claiming that the partnership contradicts the work done by the Dodd Center for Human Rights and Human Rights Institute at UConn.
“As a Palestinian American, it is truly disgusting to witness UConn claim that they are nationally recognized for supporting human rights and then dishonoring that statement by supporting Israel’s apartheid in the mass killings of the Palestinian people,” said a protester who asked to remain anonymous.
“Right now as we speak, thousands of people in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem are [being] forcibly evicted from their homes,” added the protester. “Children are separated from their families and people are starving. They have nowhere to go and they have no place to call home. These are the same people that lived in these houses for hundreds of years. These are the same people that have lived in these houses before the declaration of the Israeli state.”
The protester also referred to a statement Maric made in a former interview in regard to supporting her students, claiming the statement no longer holds true.
“UConn’s current [interim] president Radenka Maric once stated in an interview…that she wants her students to know that whatever struggles they have, the university is there to support them,” the protester said. “It is extremely hypocritical to make that statement and then completely disregard the students’ voice.”
A 2021 UConn graduate and former SJP member who asked to remain anonymous said the situation is not as complicated as people make it out to be.
“People try to continuously complicate things, to try to push us under the rug,” the former member said. “They try to tie us with politics. They try to tie us with religion. They try to tie us with terrorism. All these sorts of things, when in actuality, this is such a simple issue. We’re asking for three things. We want peace, we want justice and we want prosperity.”
After the protest, SJP social media chair Layan Alnajjar, a sixth-semester marketing major and management minor, said she hopes the protests and rallies will capture Maric’s attention and convince her to listen to members of SJP.
“We’re really just hoping that the new [interim] president can come and hear our cries and potentially implement something to help us,” said Alnajjar. “We’re trying to hold onto hope because we know that this administration is very pro-Israel, but we’re doing the best we can.”