The independent student newspaper at Goucher College

Pro-Palestine Demonstrations Make Their Mark at Goucher’s Alumni Weekend

Students and alumni posing in front of Goucher’s main entrance. 

Saturday, April 20th–As alumni rolled in through the front gates of Goucher’s campus, the first thing they saw was a group of close to twenty people waving flags, holding signs, and waving at passing cars. The group of activists, each of whom donned a face mask in the interest of protecting their identities, had all shown up in support of Palestine, and to condemn the Goucher College administration’s response to the ongoing violence.

The demonstration began at 9:00 in the morning. As people arrived, organizers offered masks, buttons, (ex: No! U.S. Aid to Israel) water bottles, and shirts. They also came prepared with pamphlets explaining the history of occupation and colonialism in Palestine. The group discussed where they should stand, so they would be as close to campus as possible without crossing onto private property. With the guidelines surrounding student demonstrations and gatherings, an event like this would have to be approved by the administration, or risk being shut down if it took place on Goucher’s campus. No longer than ten minutes after the group began, a public safety officer parked their car at the entrance to campus, a few yards behind the protest, and sat silently surveilling for the entirety of the event.

The protestors were not solely current undergraduates, a significant number were Goucher alumni who had been informed of the demonstration and joined alongside students. One alum, class of 2018, held an “Alums for a Free Palestine” sign. They elected to remain anonymous for privacy concerns, “a little scared” to reveal their name or face. The alum admitted they had been out of the loop of what had been happening within the student body until very recently, in light of increased student advocacy for Palestine at Goucher. “There’s always been student activism,” they remarked, surrounding the campus culture, “To see administration threaten students, it’s a little disgusting.”

The group responsible for organizing was the Banner of the People, “Goucher Students for Liberation and Justice,” as their Instagram page advertises. Members of this organization overlap with members of Baltimore’s chapter of the Speak Out Now socialist group, and a small number of members from Speak Out Now who were not alumni or Goucher students attended the protest in solidarity. 

As the crowd grew in numbers, songs were played from a portable speaker. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gil Scott Heron served as background music as students cheered and greeted passersby. Drivers started to react to the signage and chants quickly, some honking and waving back in support, one woman even pulling over to the side of the median to dance and chant with the group. A semi truck blared its deafening horn and gave protesters a thumbs-up. With the positive feedback came a near equal negative reaction. Some drivers made obscene gestures, rolled down their window to present middle fingers, and one woman, in the leftmost lane at the light about to enter the college, made an indistinguishable motion with her arm and yelled “Israel! Israel! Israel!” several times, and turned into the campus. 

A student activist displaying their sign.

Demonstrators, over a megaphone, started call-and-response style slogans. “Goucher College, you can’t hide, you’re supporting genocide,” was repeated, with “Kent Devereaux” and “Jasmine Lee” taking place of “Goucher College” in consecutive repetitions. One chant went, “From Columbia to Goucher to Penn, don’t let the admins win.” 

Contextualizing the clash with student protesters and Columbia University administration, an anonymous Goucher student at the gathering said, “Considering what’s happening at Columbia, I’m much more prepared to be arrested than if this had happened last week.”

After having demonstrated at the front gate for about an hour and a half, the group made their way to the Alumni House, marching through the gates, continuing their chants. “Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation.” “The students united will never be defeated.” “Silence is complicity, Palestine should be free.”

A public safety patrol car trailed behind the group as they walked, eventually driving right alongside them as they gathered on the grass behind the Alumni House’s patio, adjacent to the tent connecting to the Athenaeum’s rear exit. The plan was to start an ‘open mic,’ where students and alumni could speak up in support of Palestine.

Again, each of the organizers and protestors who were interviewed and quoted chose to remain anonymous for safety concerns. Speaking to some of the lead organizers, they described their most notable interactions with the alumni, who were having refreshments on the patio. President Devereaux was reportedly spotted among the crowd on the patio, but made only a brief appearance. One organizer and speaker describes how they were being seemingly ignored by every onlooker, until in their speech, they called out in protest, “How do your mimosas taste?” This was met with a satisfied, “So good.” Another organizer described this instance as the eroding of the apparent barrier between the speakers and onlookers, and they recalled this exchange as building feelings of resentment among the demonstrators.

An organizer recounted how they were approached by multiple members of the Alumnae & Alumni of Goucher College (AAGC) association. President Damon Highsmith allegedly approached the group, saying how he was proud of them for showing up, but how the AAGC were in the middle of delivering speeches. He mentioned how these speeches were about alumni affinity spaces, an incentive for them to close their forum. One of the organizers described this as being a failed appeal to their own values of social justice, the subtext being that some of the affinity spaces serve marginalized groups. He told them to give the alumni organization just ten minutes to finish, and that he would bring them some alumni who wanted to listen to the speeches.

As the students and alumni spoke, gathered in a tight circle, protestors noted three or four public safety officers observing, as well as two public safety officers, who appeared to be taking pictures. Some individuals involved in the demonstration were filming the speeches, and Jasmine Lee, Goucher College vice president for equity and inclusive excellence, stood around the perimeter of the circle. She allegedly requested not to be filmed by students, organizers recounted her asking for her face to be blurred. The member described the takeaway from their conversations with Lee as her being generally conflicted. She was “switching between individual responsibility and wanting to represent the college.” An organizer described being told in summary that since Goucher was a private school, things work differently as it pertains to protesting and student activism.

The Vice President of Campus Operations, Erik Thompson, was also spotted bordering the crowd. Gretchen Gilliand, AAGC’s annual giving officer, also allegedly let the demonstrators know that the alumni were moving away from the group, but organizers claimed she assured them it was no fault of the protest, just that they were moving on to another event. 

One alum, Joey Fink, was identified by organizers reflecting on the protest, claiming that he offered them his business card in an attempt to move the event elsewhere and to de-escalate. He was mentioned as having suggested that the alumni event was not an appropriate place for a dialogue. Search engine inquiries for Fink’s name show his affiliation with Israel Policy Forum, an organization whose statement of principles begins with, “A two-state outcome is necessary to fulfilling the Zionist dream of a Jewish and democratic Israel.”

 One organizer said that they felt most of the leadership let them know how they appreciated the spirit of the protest, but were trying to tell them to vacate in a gentle way. Observers say that the protestors left the alumni patio area around 12:30pm. 

Around 2:00pm, the group returned, circling the entry-level floor of the Athenaeum. They came with banners, paper mache sculptures, and dangled their signage over the wall. This stage of the demonstration was arranged to coincide with the alumni parade, where visitors would process into the Hyman Forum. As the forum filled, they remained, without chanting or speaking they did little else but hold their signs. It was a silent, unignorable message to the occupants of the Athenaeum. “Celebrate” by Kool and the Gang filled the speakers as the first few alumni started to enter the forum, a stark tonal clash with the somber messaging of the banners. “Let Us Grieve,” “Let Us Protest,” and “Say Genocide.” 

Acting Student Government Association President Emma Kistner sat on the top floor of the Athenaeum, observing. When prompted, she offered a message to the student body. “I want to show support for students who don’t feel like they have a safe space on campus to express their views.” On her own involvement with the conflict, “While I have no direct connection to the situation, I want to make sure students who do have emotional and direct connections feel supported and safe.” 

As more people joined to stand alongside the protestors, students were prompted to show their identification cards by public safety. Around 3:00pm, anyone not affiliated with the event was barred from entering the Athenaeum entirely. Students were seen being turned away at the door by officers. Professor Citali Maranda-Aldaco, Goucher professor of fourteen years, was overheard inside the Athenaeum, vocally confused by the fact that she was asked to show identification. 

Students being told they are unable to enter the Athenaeum.
Demonstrators hold their signs while Rev. Maeba Jonas prays. 

The AAGC began their annual meeting once the audience settled, seemingly unaffected by the presence of the student activists. Goucher Chaplain, Reverend Maeba Jonas, made a virtual appearance to lead the attendees in a prayer. “We pray for our world,” she said, attendees all “embarking on a path of justice and understanding.” Business continued uninterrupted, with alumni voting on changes to be made within the organization, and select alumni being recognized for their work with annual awards. Eventually, as the AAGC meeting began to disperse, so did the demonstrators. While some alumni were seen chatting with the activists, no apparent backlash or noticeable conflict between the groups arose in the Athenaeum.

Tensions between students and administration have recently been high, with changes to the Campus Demonstration Policy requiring gatherings and protests to be approved by administration five days in advance, with details about the purpose of the gathering, the size, location, and other key details. It may only take place Monday through Friday during business hours, and only in approved locations. Many students believe these guidelines to be unfair, or purposefully confusing. As for the updated policies, an anonymous Banner of the People organizer quipped, “I’m no dummy, but I read the student code of conduct and still didn’t understand.” 

On Friday, April 19th, an approved student gathering was held on Van Meter Highway from 9:00am to 9:00pm, inviting students to write their opinions and wishes about Palestine. An email was sent out from the Office of Student Affairs to the student body informing them of this presence. Upon stopping at the tables, students informed interested parties about the Banner of the People protest that was to take place the next morning, but kept their advertising discreet. Discussion and coordination was mostly done via private chats and social media. Students were discouraged from posting about the protest publicly, in anticipation of negative responses from administration, considering the demonstration guidelines. 

These guidelines, especially with printed material, have been more stringently enforced during the 2023-24 school year, with unapproved fliers and postings being removed from campus buildings. All postings have to be stamped and approved by the Office of Student Engagement, as well. The aforementioned organizer believes the escalated enforcement “is in direct response to our organization putting up art installations,” referring to the posters and statements posted outside Mary Fisher and various other locations. 

“I feel frustrated because we approached this weekend as a means of outreach to the alumni, and to connect with how it relates with their own experience and image of Goucher. It turned into another instance of being ignored, laughed at, and antagonized by our audience, and another way of Jasmine Lee and Erik [Thompson] pretending they’re listening to us,” the organizer said.

Another organizer said, “There are people in admin who might agree with us, but they can’t really do anything about it.”

A recently graduated alum reached out through current undergraduates involved with Banner of the People, whose speech was read on their behalf at the gathering at the Alumni House. The individual reportedly is banned from campus due to their actions as a student activist before they graduated. “After engaging in dialogue and being reassured that all incidents of police terror were mere misunderstandings, I received an official barring notice from campus safety,” the speech detailed. However, the speech was intended to directly address the alumni, and let them know the conditions that student activists were facing under the current administration, starting with, “Dear community members who can still hear me.” 

One excerpt said, “I began my activism on campus after hearing how many of my pro-Palestinian friends felt afraid to take action, and had no hope for effective change at this or any other institution. These sentiments signaled clearly that our Goucher education had failed us.” 

“Look around you, absence is all that surrounds. Speak for a few minutes with any individual within the administration and it becomes clear that nobody is a fanatic zionist. They all, however, defer to Hillel and Zionism in fear of losing donations. What is absent is courage, is integrity, commitment to values.” 

Concluding, the alum said, “Goucher has tried to erase student organizing, activism, and demonstration, and is now starting to erase individual students and their voices. If you can still hear me, don’t let these successful and attempted erasures lead to non-existence. We must affirm our presence on this campus and in this world to call out all forms of colonialism, racism, and bigotry.”


Sam Rose (he/him) is a Digital Arts and Media Studies Double Major from Catonsville Maryland. Outside of the Quindecim, he is a member of Goucher Chamber Singers as well as an Admissions Ambassador. He enjoys creating art, playing guitar, and spending time with his dogs.

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