Week roundup: How the Israel-Hamas war is affecting colleges, universities

Despite the organized solidarity by Palestinian students, it's becoming apparent that university leaders and college students are increasingly denouncing Hamas' Oct. 7 attack.

As the war between Israel and Hamas escalates, with Israel finally conducting its long-awaited ground offensive into Gaza, the death toll quickly approaches 10,000. As fighting intensifies, tension across college campuses shows no signs of letting up.

Among the most recent developments of conflict across the nation’s colleges and universities, college leaders are increasingly stepping away from maintaining neutrality and instead opting to denounce Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack as an act of terrorism. However, student protests continue to reign across campus with fierce viewpoints from both sides.

More from UB: Trouble at the top: Infighting among school board members invites outside criticism

Widespread Palestinian student protests continue

Students at more than 100 colleges and universities from coast to coast planned walkouts in support of the Palestinian people on Wednesday afternoon, NBC News reports.

Social Justice for Palestine (SJP), a national student group, organizes many such protests. Northeastern University’s SJP chapter organized more than 150 students to protest on Wednesday, in which students carried signs that read, “End Israeli apartheid now” and chanted, “Palestine will never die” and “Northwestern, you can’t hide—you’re paying for genocide,” Northwestern’s student newspaper reports.

Presidents, students increasingly side against Hamas

Despite the organized solidarity by Palestinian students, it’s becoming apparent that university leaders and college students are increasingly denouncing Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

A Generation Lab poll of two- and four-year college students found that two-thirds describe what Hamas did as an act of terrorism. Similarly, Rabbi Ari Berman, president of Yeshiva University in New York, recently circulated a statement that read, “We stand together with Israel against Hamas.” A collection of 13 private universities, public university systems and HBCUs helped found the ensuing coalition.

“Presidents of universities and colleges aren’t just administrative leaders,” said Rabbi Ari Berman, president of Yeshiva University in New York, according to The Washington Post. “They’re moral leaders. And setting the right framework of the conversation will be important in the weeks and months ahead.”

Outside pressure to quell Palestinian protests continue

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is urging state universities to ban the student protest group SJP from banning together at its campuses, according to a letter written by the state university system chancellor. DeSantis believes SJP is backing a “terrorist organization.”

DeSantis joins other Republican lawmakers encouraging more staunch consequences against student protestors they believe support terrorism and the universities that allow such voices to flourish in the first place. Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), former president Donald Trump and DeSantis believe schools should stop receiving funding if they don’t take more strict measures against student protests. The three politicians, along with Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Tom Cotton (Ark.), believe foreign students who publicly support Hamas should lose their student visas, The Hill reports.

“Any university or college that peddles blatant antisemitism, especially after Hamas’ brutal attack on Israeli civilians, women and children, has no place molding the minds of future generations, never mind receiving millions of taxpayer funds to do so,” Scott said.

Aside from lawmakers, mega-donors have increasingly become more vocal in denouncing their alma mater if they fail to adequately defend Israel in their eyes. Philanthropist Ronald S. Lauder, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf and private equity chief Marc Rowan all recently announced they’re pulling funding from the University of Pennsylvania for greenlighting a Palestinian literary conference in the wake of war, The New York Times reports. Rowan had recently donated $50 million to the school.

Columbia postpones significant fundraising event

Heavy external pressure and backlash from outside sources, coupled with increasing campus tension, has culminated in the University of Columbia postponing its massive Giving Day fundraising event. Taking such a step may be a major blow to the university’s fundraising efforts; the event raised nearly $30 million in just 24 hours last year, according to the fundraiser.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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