Since war broke out between Israel and Hamas last month, college campuses across the nation are experiencing tension as groups from opposing sides clash and communities grieve casualties on both sides.
Here’s a run-down of responses from the Goucher community.
On October 7th, the day of the initial Hamas attack, Goucher Hillel released a statement on their instagram account, voicing support for all Israelis, students, and professionals at Hillel Israel. Read the full statement here.
Three days later on October 10th, Goucher College President Kent Devereux sent an email to all official students, faculty and staff, titled “Statement Regarding Hamas Attack on Israel, and Resulting War.”
In this email Devereux writes “First, I want to say that we at Goucher strongly condemn the unprecedented, deadly attack by Hamas terrorists upon Israel, and that we stand in firm and caring support of members of our community who have friends and family who may be in harm’s way. The violence and harm are utterly heartbreaking and have traumatized our Jewish, Israeli and Middle Eastern community members who have family, friends, or colleagues in, or direct ties to, the region.”
This email cites Goucher Hillel staff as a support system for affected students, as well as the Student Counseling Center, and WellTrack Connect.
Goucher Hillel has held a number of information and listening sessions on campus since releasing the previous statement, all advertised on their instagram page. The most recent of these sessions is an Israel-Hamas War Briefing on Zoom, taking place remotely on Thursday, November 2. Those wishing to participate have been prompted to email Assistant Director Beth Vander Stoep at firstname.lastname@example.org for a link to this session.
In addition to the named support systems, President Devereux wrote in support of those speaking on the conflict to do so with a “focus on our shared humanity.”
The following is an excerpt pulled from his October 10 email, under the subtitle: Speaking to One Another Across Different Viewpoints
“We understand that each individual will view the events differently. There should be one thing that unites us all, which is that the murder of civilians can never be justified. The indiscriminate murder that we have seen on the news reports has made a number of our students feel unsafe.
Beyond that, there may be several viewpoints about this conflict that can often be at odds with one another, and our students need to feel safe in their identities and share their beliefs. It is up to all of us to ensure a safe environment at Goucher and welcome a wide range of perspectives and beliefs on our campus.”
On October 24, an email statement from Goucher’s Center for Race, Equity, and Identity (CREI) was sent to all official students, faculty and staff. This statement affirmed CREI’s commitment to social justice, with words from Juan M. Hernandez, Ed.D Assistant Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Title IX.
Hernandez stated, “Ultimately, social justice requires us to call out power and oppression in all of the ways it exists; but asks us to do that work in a manner that allows us to grow as a community where we acknowledge that we are imperfect human beings who are committed to centering human dignity, the pursuit of knowledge, and the fair and equitable treatment of all.”
On the same day, October 24, a space was held to uplift and voice support for Palestinian lives, with a presentation on recent events in Palestine and their historical context, followed by a Q&A discussion. According to fliers posted on campus advertising the event, the presentation was given by a Speak Out Now Socialists activist, but the event organizers are unknown.
October 31st, a group of unknown individuals put up a poster display of artwork in support of Palestinian liberation on Mary Fisher. Attached to this display was an artist’s statement urging the college to leave it up at least one week after the initial posting. The display was removed from Mary Fisher approximately two hours later.
The artist’s statement was left untouched on the window of Mary Fisher, now with a printout citing Goucher College’s commitments to respect, inclusion, communication, service and social justice, and responsibility.
The reason cited by administration for the removal of this display was a violation of the college’s recently adopted demonstration policy, a policy made known to students exactly one day prior via a policy update email sent to all official students, faculty and staff on Monday, October 30th.
On November 6, an instagram post from the official Goucher CREI account advertised a healing space to take place on November 7 in the Sanford J. Ungar Athenaeum.
The original message stated: “We will be holding a space Tuesday night for anyone that hasn’t felt like they have had a space to process Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel and the genocide perpetrated by Israel as a result.”
Just a few hours later, this statement was removed from the account, and edited for re-upload with a new statement:
“We will be holding a space Tuesday night for anyone that hasn’t felt like they have had a space to process Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel and the counterattacks by Israel as a result.”
On November 7, a second project by the group now known as @decadesandoceans on Instagram took place on a picnic table outside the academic quad. This project, cited by the organizer as a class project, was meant to be a space held for grieving the martyrs and lives lost in Palestine.
A list of names, victims of the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip released by Palestine’s Ministry of Health, was placed on the table, along with markers and strips of cloth for participants to write names on in remembrance and hang from the branches of the tree overlooking this table.
Just a few hours after the project’s initial set up, the project was defaced, with the words “Stop killing Jews” written at the top of this list.
@decadesandoceans released a statement of their account regarding this defacement.
“Dear individual(s) who felt called to do this: To vandalize a space that is held for grieving the loss of innocent life, that is in no one’s way and causes no one harm, to allow all lines to be crossed, surrender one’s humanity and let apathy triumph- how reminiscent of the behavior of those who have fallen victim to zionist propaganda!”
Read the full statement of their account, linked above.
November 8, President Kent Devereux sent an email to all official students, faculty and staff, titled “National Day of Protest Tomorrow, November 9”
This email stated:
“I understand that tomorrow (Thurs., Nov. 9, 2023) is a national day of protest in response to the current events unfolding in Israel and Palestine. We are aware that in solidarity with this protest some of our students are planning a class walkout at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow.
As students exercise their right to free speech during the school day tomorrow, Goucher staff will be prepared to ensure that this walkout is conducted safely and respectfully, with as little disruption to normal operations as possible.”
Additionally, President Devereux sent reminder reference links to the college’s Student Code of Conduct, as well as the Campus Demonstration Policy, a newer policy made known to students via a policy update email sent to all official students, faculty and staff on Monday, October 30th.
President Devereux concluded his email with the news that Campus Safety security officers would be present for this walk out, as a means to ensure student safety.
“Finally, please note that we have coordinated with Campus Safety to ensure that we have additional security in place this week, because more than anything else, the safety and security of our students and staff are of utmost priority. If you need to reach Campus Security for any reason, please call them any time at 410-337-6111.
Thank you for ensuring that our community remains committed to and grounded in these principles of free expression and mutual respect.”
On November 9, a student organized walk out took place at 11am in support of Palestinian liberation. An estimated 60+ students and a few faculty members left classrooms at 11 to convene in front of Haebler Memorial Chapel, then walking down Van Meter highway. The group then gathered in from of Mary Fisher dining hall and speakers took turns voicing calls for action, boycotts, and concerns about the devastating genocide against the Palestinian people.
Students also took to criticizing the administration’s response, or lack thereof, to this crisis as well as their blatant pro-Israel stance.
Following this gathering, the group returned to the front of Haebler Memorial Chapel for a candlelit vigil where participants laid candles and artwork in respect of the Palestinian lives lost, as the names of martyred children were read aloud from the list of victims released by Palestine’s Ministry of Health.
Update: This is a developing story. The Quindecim is also investigating longer-term projects regarding this subject matter, and will give updates as they arise.
This story was last updated November 13, 2023