Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Breaking: Student Occupation of Memorial Hall Continues into Second Day

At 10:00 a.m. on Nov. 10, assembled students gathered in the Governing Boards Room (Memorial 331), renamed by protesters as the Edward Said Reading Room, to discuss the previous 24 hours and set objectives for the next day. Overnight protesters reported a relatively quiet night, with brief interruptions as janitorial staff and various administrators arrived in the building. 

At the Friday morning meeting, protesters reaffirmed their dedication to their cause, emphasizing the importance of cultivating a respectful environment within the building. An incident between protestors and a staff member sometime on Nov. 9 concerned faculty who attended the strike in solidarity with students. 

In an email to The Wire, Cushing Eells Professor of Philosophy and Literature, Professor of Indigeneity, Race, and Ethnicity Studies and Gender Studies Nicole Simek outlined several concerns and emphasized the importance of addressing demands at administrators rather than staff.

“Many staff members working in Mem[orial Hall] are not involved in policy decisions (and do not have the same job security and protections that faculty members do), we believe demands should be addressed instead to higher-level administrators who have the power to shape policy. Our goal was to ensure that staff members are being treated with respect, and that student leaders have the information they need to act on concerns as they arise,” Simek said. 

At Friday’s 10:00 a.m. round-table meeting with protestors and leadership, student organizers said that the schedule for the occupation’s second day had been shared to the student listserv, but was rejected by the moderator. 

In emails shared with The Wire, the listserv moderator rejected the email because it “aim[ed] to disrupt the educational process.”

Memorial Hall (Mem) was mostly empty aside from student protesters. Several offices closed their doors Friday morning, including the Registrar’s Office, which announced its closure via the student listserv at 6:24 AM. 

In an email to The Wire, Vice President for Communications Gina Zandy Ohnstad explained that the choice to work in-person was left up to individual offices and administrators. 

“Because of increased activity in Mem today, administrators told their staff who have offices in the building to work in whatever setting was best for them – either in-person or via telework. Friday tends to be a popular telework day anyway, so some employees already had planned to work from home today,” Ohnstad said.

Emails shared with The Wire outline demands made by Whitman Students for Justice in Palestine (WSJP). The demands mirror those made by SAC leaders. 

An Oct. 30 email sent after the Oct. 26 occupation outlined WSJP’s demands, including that the College divest from “weapon suppliers to Israel, companies that are headquartered in Israel, and companies that purchase from Israeli companies that need to be divested from urgently.”

The email continued to explain why specific demands were emphasized.

“The idea behind this prioritization is that it would have the most immediate effect, both materially and symbolically, and would hopefully face less resistance, since it seems evident that Whitman is not an institution that is actively interested in supporting an apartheid state or ethnic cleansing,” WSJP leadership said.

A follow-up email sent by WSJP leadership to Bolton on Nov. 6 further called for urgency, citing specific clauses within College bylaws.

“We would also like to use the Whitman Bylaws and Charters’ article IV, section 4, that “Special meetings of the Board of Trustees may be held at any time and place on the call of the Chair of the Board, the President of the College, or of at least three Trustees.” At the moment, we think it is necessary for the board to meet and decide on the future of the college’s investments, either upon your request of a “special meeting,” or the chair’s, or of at least three Trustees,” the email said.

Sophomore Goldie Cameron remained in Memorial Hall throughout the night. Instead of sleeping, Cameron remained awake for the majority of the night, letting students into Memorial periodically, and making rounds around the building. 

“I essentially was just up. I let people in, I would help facilitate other people doing night shifts to make sure everyone’s okay. I essentially was an RA,” Cameron said. “I just essentially watched what happened over the night. People were sleeping soundly and safely.”

Organizers like Marion Mattson expressed their support for the campus community and faculty, but emphasized that the occupation is far from over.

“We need people to show up and take up space,” Mattson said. 

McKenna McShane was not initially a member of the Whitman Student Action Committee (SAC), but has been drawn in since the occupation of Memorial began. McShane emphasized the importance of student voices, and reaffirmed protestors’ commitment to meeting their outlined objectives.

“I think that we have a really large amount of passionate people here right now and that we can keep morale high and we can keep people engaged,” McShane said. “Hopefully this will last until Thanksgiving or whenever they meet our demands. The genocide happening on the Palestinians is not something that’s new, and hopefully this will spark change and a greater awareness within our community.”

McShane has also been involved with the creation of a landing page for SAC, where organizers plan to share updates, daily schedules and organizational goals.

Despite the administrative absence, students continue to occupy Memorial Hall. Cameron commented on the sense of community they felt.

I think it’s a really wonderful community thing. Staying up all night talking to people and just  respecting the space but also having a good time and having conversations, studying, chatting, was super duper valuable,” Cameron said. 

They credit Whitman’s Student Action Committee (SAC) and Whitman Students for Justice in Palestine (WSJP) with facilitating unity among the protestors. 

“I really enjoyed the experience of staying up with my friend Paige literally all night talking. In Memorial. It’s just it’s a weird place to be. But at the same time, it’s so lively in here. I feel like there’s a lot of campus community though,” Cameron said.  “It’s very interesting how much SJP and the Student Action Coalition have brought together more people in a way that I feel like doesn’t happen often. There’s fully a little jazz quartet happening down the hall here. Is that planned? I don’t know. I’m not sure.”

Tents remain pitched on the Boyer side of Memorial Hall as protesters begin their second night occupying the building.

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  • S

    Steve HemmatNov 13, 2023 at 7:42 am

    If these occupiers are making these demands, to be consistent they should all do the following:
    1. Remove all Intel Pentium and Celeron computer processor chips from personal computers (desktops, laptops and notebooks) as these were either developed or manufactured in Israel. All current Microsoft operating systems are not to be used as Microsoft is heavily reliant on its Israel R&D center.
    2. Any computers that still work need to have their anti-virus software and personal firewalls removed as this technology originated in Israel. The organisation’s firewall will also need to be switched off. Staff should no longer open external emails as most of these will be infected with viruses. No outgoing emails can be sent. The algorithm (code) that’s used today for sending e-mails, was made by an Israeli who worked at the Ben-Gurion University in Be’er-Sheva in 1980.
    3. Discard all mobile phones, as this technology was developed in Israel, where the first mobile phones were manufactured. Mobile chip technology from a single Israeli company has now been installed in over 100 million devices. Only top-level staff may retain mobile phones for emergency situations. However the use of SMS (Texting) is expressly forbidden as this facility was developed in Israel.
    4. Turn off your voice-mail service and delete any recorded messages. Israeli companies invented the voice-mail system.
    5. Before accepting any printed material, check that the supplier has not used the Israeli device that might have saved up to 50% of the ink used.
    6. Do not use Facebook as many in-built and add-on applications are Israeli-developed. Do not watch videos on the Internet as the platform used to upload my have been developed in Israel. Do not use the Internet to search for answers to your questions as this may involve use of an Israeli-developed search engine.
    7. On your TV or home entertainment center, do not use Video On Demand (VOD) to watch movies as you may inadvertently see an advert displayed using Israeli software. Do not purchase any games devices as these are likely to use Israeli technology.
    8. Do not read books using an e-book as this may contain Israeli technology. Do not use data storage as it may have been developed at Israel’s storage technology R&D center.
    9. Do not buy an electric car as it is likely to be powered with an Israeli battery or use Israeli developed charging mats.
    10. This excludes all of the Israeli advances in medicine, agriculture, and other areas of human advancement. Avoid these as well.
    11. Finally, the land you’re occupying is indigenous land of native tribes. If you’re consistent in your ideology, end your occupation immediately.

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