On Monday, Oct. 9, the University of Connecticut President Radenka Maric addressed the community with a statement on the violence that had then been afflicting the Gaza Strip and surrounding areas for three days and had led to hundreds of Palestinian and Israeli deaths.
Highlighting the widespread impact felt by students, staff and faculty at UConn, Maric restated the university’s commitment to “upholding human rights, safeguarding innocent civilian lives in all contexts, and advocating tirelessly for global peace.” Maric also took a hard stance against what she characterized as terroristic violence, urging support for the “countless innocent people who once again have had the atrocities of war thrust upon them.”
Over a week later, over 3,000 Gazans and 1,400 Israelis have died, and tens of thousands more are injured. The Daily Campus Editorial Board recognizes the many UConn community members who feel deep uncertainty, anxiety and loss as they worry about family members, friends and fellow human beings who are caught in the dust and beneath the rubble of war. We reaffirm that it is necessary for university leaders to be communicative with and supportive of all of their constituents who carry the trauma of horrific current events exemplified by the violence in Gaza.
However, between Maric’s condemnation of terrorism and call for peace is an unmistakable absence: specifically, any mention of Palestine proper or Palestinian people.
Having criticized the university in the past for its connections to the State of Israel, which itself facilitates unthinkable human rights abuses against Palestinians, the Editorial Board is disappointed but not surprised, that UConn’s leaders have almost exclusively expressed solidarity with Israel against aggression while neglecting the violence it has exacted many times over against the people of Gaza and the West Bank.
Two days after the release of Maric’s statement, students rallied in solidarity with Palestine and to challenge the lack of support for Palestinian students by the university and international community. Shortly after, UConn Students for Justice in Palestine, one of the organizations hosting the rally, released a letter via a mass email and social media calling out the double standard against Palestinians around the world, writing, “Only when victims of a tragedy are not Palestinian does it seem to warrant sympathy and an official University response.” Further, the statement, signed by 11 other student organizations, called on UConn to “divest from any initiatives that support the Israeli apartheid state” and speak up for the human rights of Palestinians.
The Editorial Board voices SJP’s concerns towards UConn’s silence on the historic oppression of Palestinians by the State of Israel. We believe that any condemnation of rights abuses and war crimes that include one affected party but erase another is no condemnation at all; rather, it is a subtle statement on whose oppression is acceptable and whose is not. UConn has an obligation to treat every community under its stewardship with equal compassion and recognition — one which it has not met in recent weeks as it rations sympathy from victims it considers imperfect. We urge UConn to embody its duty to represent all of its constituents fairly by officially acknowledging the harm of airstrikes, blockades and forced displacement perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians.
Editor’s note: Opinion Editor Nell Srinath is the chair of UNCHAIN, a signatory organization of the Students for Justice in Palestine letter.