Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Students Walk Out in Support of Palestine

In the wake of explosive student protests at New York City’s Columbia University and ongoing violence in Gaza, students across Washington State participated in walkouts to protest the Israel-Hamas War. Whitman students followed suit, assembling on Ankeny Field at 10:30 a.m. 

Organized by Whitman Students for Justice in Palestine (WSJP),  the walkout opened with a statement from Associate Professor of Art History and Paul Garett Fellow Lisa Uddin, the president of Whitman’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). She cited sections of faculty code guaranteeing the right to organize.

WSJP leadership led the assembled students around Ankeny Field and led chants. After they completed a lap around the field, protesters placed 340 white flags, each representing 100 Palestinians killed since Oct. 7  in front of fence pieces tagged with posters. Per Al Jazeera, the death toll is currently at least 34,183.

As of press time on April 24, the installation remains on Ankeny.

In a statement to The Wire, Vice President for Communications Gina Zandy Ohnstad reaffirmed the College’s protection of protest.

“Whitman supports students’ rights to free expression and the rights of all members of the campus community to voice concerns and engage in respectful protest in ways that are not disruptive to the educational process,” Ohnstad said.

First-year Juliette Silvers participated to express her frustration and reinforce the power of numbers. 

 “I wanted to express my discontent with what is happening in Gaza right now,” said Silvers. “I think the more people that participate in [protests], the more important they are.”

Tuesday’s walkout and installation fits into a larger story of organizing on campus since Oct. 7. In November, students occupied Memorial Hall for four days demanding the Board of Trustees divest.

Per an Oct. 30 email, their demands included divestment 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.” That proposal was ultimately denied

Although divestment is still a priority, senior Dante Filippetto explained that WSJP’s goals have pivoted to include urging the Whitman Investment Club (WIC) to divest, petitioning the Off-Campus Studies committee to boycott a program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and encouraging the college to call for a ceasefire. 

In addition to signaling material demands, Filippetto also foregrounded the importance of providing space. 

“I think that it’s been three months since we’ve had a vigil, so this is [installation is also] in the vein of holding space for people to reflect and share,” Filippetto said. 

Filippetto cited the International Criminal Court’s January order to protect Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as a decision that should have spurred action. 

“The board has completely ignored our demand that they call for a ceasefire,” said Filippetto. “I think it’s telling that the school is either dismissive or ignorant of  the ICJ’s ruling and their actions [or] the weight of their role in global politics.”

Throughout Tuesday, students reported being unable to access Memorial Hall without proof of a meeting or other reason to be in the building. 

Ohnstad confirmed their reports.

“Protests in Memorial last semester made it hard for staff in the building to get their work done. The college wanted to ensure business could move forward without interruption at a time when there is so much happening with student registration for next year and many other things.”

The building reopened to students without appointments on Wednesday. 

Silvers and Filippeto remain optimistic about the power of student protest. 

“I think if enough people stand up and say that they’re not ok with what’s going on, then eventually something will have to change,” Silvers said.

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  • R

    Robert Milton Montgomery, Class 1975Apr 27, 2024 at 6:43 am

    I am saddened to see Whitman College faculty and students unquestionably accept statistics from Hamas, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the 1619 Project.

    • C

      Concerned StudentApr 28, 2024 at 2:14 pm

      Absolutely distasteful of you to compare the SPLC to the terrorist organization Hamas.

      • E

        Embarrassed AlumnMay 3, 2024 at 12:57 pm

        Unfortunately, Robert is correct to do so. SPLC long ago lost its reason for existence. It is currently a grotesquely one-sided activist organization with little moral compass and bent largely on seeking income hidden in many offshore entities (while still seeking corporate contributions as a form of virtue-signaling indulgence payment). They are a joke.