Swarthmore Palestine Coalition Hosts Sit-In in Parrish Hall 

Photo courtesy of Howard Wang

Posters, banners, and sleeping bags line the walls of Parrish Hall as students in support of Palestinian freedom, led by the Swarthmore Palestine Coalition (SPC), continue a now four-day sit-in. SPC — composed of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and 28 other member organizations — plans to continue the sit-in until the semester’s end; a culmination of two months of student protest calling for SJP-written demands

These demands include a statement from President Valerie Smith condemning “Israeli aggression in the Gaza strip,” college divestment from companies funding Israel, and a boycott of Sabra and HP products which support the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). According to SJP, a petition with these demands and over 1000 signatures has been refused by the administration throughout November. The overnight sit-in averages 40 or more participants, according to SPC, and general meetings have had an attendance of 80 or more students, according to daily updates from Voices, a member organization of SPC. 

Throughout the semester, SJP has held walk-outs, vigils, a die-in, and a protest at the Dining Center to push for their demands. Chalk messages have appeared at various locations like Magill Walk, Kohlberg, and Lang Music Building with messages including “Divest now,” “Free Palestine,” and “Stop funding genocide.” At protests, students have been heard chanting “The students united will never be defeated” and “Swarthmore, Swarthmore, you can’t hide; you support genocide.”

On Dec. 3, at least ten students received emails from Dean of Student Life Nathan Miller informing them that their participation in these protests have potentially violated the College’s Student Code of Conduct and would result in an “official warning and a directive to not engage in any further behaviors that would violate” the code. The email also announced an investigation into student actions following the school’s procedure

In response to the written warnings, SJP published a post on Instagram including a screenshot of a 2018 tweet from the College directed toward prospective students about Swarthmore’s support of the “right to peaceful assembly” and that participation in nonviolent demonstrations wouldn’t negatively impact admissions. SJP argued the warnings and investigation contradict the values championed by the post on X, formerly known as Twitter, as well as the school’s Quaker roots. 

In response to inquiry regarding the reasoning for these disciplinary warnings, Vice President of Communications Andy Hirsch clarified the college’s position.

“Protestors interrupted a small dinner of board and faculty members. The warning letters were planned prior to that event in response to several other violations of college policies. They were then updated to include the violations that took place that night.”

He further explained that steps were taken prior to the issuing of disciplinary warnings, such as verbal warnings. Hirsch said students unaffiliated with SJP or SPC received emails, including students who “tore down pro-Palestine flyers that were hung in accordance with our Banners, Chalkings, and Posters Policy.” SPC leaders questioned this and believe the warnings were selectively enforced towards students of color. The student organization Solidarity at Swarthmore said they did not receive written warnings for similar past protests. 

“The institution participated in the racial profiling of students,” said a representative from SPC. “They are trying to [wrongly] discipline students who had no participation in any of the events that SJP and the Swarthmore Palestine Coalition have organized simply because they are students of color or have their hair or face covered.”

In an emailed statement to the entire school titled “Navigating Challenging Times as a Community,” President Smith acknowledged student sentiment that the right to protest was being censored and said that while the College respects the student’s right to advocate for beliefs, doing so must be in line with the school’s values of  “peace, mutual respect, and inclusion.”

“Some of the behavior during the protests, such as the use of a bullhorn and drums in enclosed spaces and in close proximity to others, have caused emotional and physical harm on more than one occasion,” Smith wrote. “Whatever the intent of these actions, they result in intimidation, harassment, and discrimination. Those committing such actions are suppressing, if not silencing, members of our community based on their views and beliefs, which flies in the face of academic freedom and our core values.”

SPC said the “selective enforcement” of the Student Code of Conduct works to silence the student right to protest, and believes many of the written code violations are false accusations, such as that protestors caused physical harm. 

“We cannot see how using a bullhorn simply to amplify the voices of the people who are speaking at demonstrations would physically harm an individual,” the SPC representative said. “We do understand as well that they claimed emotional harm. We do not understand how that could be accepted and established to discipline students because that is incredibly subjective, according to whoever is enforcing these rules.” 

SJP felt Smith’s statement was evasive and lacking, particularly about Kinnan Abdalhamid, a Palestinian Haverford College student who was shot in Burlington, Vt., on Nov. 25 along with two other Palestinian students in what authorities are investigating as a possible hate crime. While Smith condemned the “heinous violence,” she did not name Abdalhamid or the two other students also shot in the attack. 

“We believe that the lack of recognition of simply stating the name of Kinnan is to dehumanize him and neglect his pain and his struggle. This is a Tri-Co student who some of the students here have taken classes with, and are incredibly close friends with. He deserves to be named,”  the SPC representative said. “His name deserves to be honored for the pain and the suffering that he has gone through, which is a direct result of the complacency of Swarthmore College and institutions like Swarthmore and their negligence of this Islamophobia, white supremacy, and racism that is rooted within the greater conflict that is happening in Palestine.”

As SJP continues the sit-in, they’ve held events in Parrish such as an Art Build hosted by the student-run Kitao Gallery, poem readings, and a teach-in about personal safety during protests. The central stairway and the main part of the second floor are wallpapered with posters of Palestinian victims from the ongoing humanitarian crisis. In bold letters, each photo has “MURDERED by Israel” printed across its front. Additionally, Palestinian flags and freedom slogans have been put up as students occupy the second level of the building. 

Some professors have moved class meetings to Parrish Hall to support students wishing to protest there. However, on the evening of Dec. 5, Dean of Faculty Tomoko Sakomura sent an email to faculty urging them to follow guidelines that include providing an environment free from discrimination and not forcing students to make political choices. SPC believes class location shifts are not in violation of these guidelines because professors have been conferring with students before moving classes. 

“It is not something that [professors] do without the consent of all of the students in their classes. Furthermore, the SPC provides support for the student and for these classes to be held,” the SPC representative said. “We are aware that some students might have disability accommodations, so when they come we are doing things like lowering the music and creating pathways for them to walk through. We are giving them an open and safe environment to host their classes and for the students to be most comfortable.”

In an interview with The Phoenix conducted during the first hours of the sit-in, an anonymous demonstrator who is not a member of SJP explained their reasons for attending and provided context for the demonstration’s exigence. 

“The College is refusing to divest and refusing to give in to SJP’s demands, which have been raised not just since the Oct. 7 attacks, but have been [present] for years now,” they said.

Additionally, when asked about the goals of the sit-in, the demonstrator stated that “business as usual will not continue until the demands are met.”

Sit-ins have a history at Swarthmore College. In 1985, student activists called for divestment from companies involved with the apartheid state of South Africa. The students facilitated a multiple-day sit-in of the President’s office and interrupted a board meeting. In July of 1986, divestment began and full divestment was reached in 1990.

“[Swarthmore has] the financial and political means to do something about the injustice happening,” the unnamed demonstrator said. “Swarthmore, who claims to have these Quaker values of justice and equality, has the power to stand up against that and if they are not using that power, then they are complicit in the violence that is happening.”

As the sit-in continues, SPC plans to work with other schools across Philadelphia and the country to share ideas and resources. Swarthmore alumni and parents expressed support for SPC and Palestinian freedom through a separate petition, resources, and guidance. Additionally, they pledged to pause college donations until demands are met. The Coalition has also received some faculty support at protests, and believe that this support is important as a role model for student protesters.

According to Smith’s statement, the administration is “working to reach a peaceful resolution to this latest demonstration.” However, SPC has not heard directly from the administration about the sit-in and believe the only way a peaceful resolution can be reached is through communication. SPC said they are “indifferent” to this statement because they are not happy with the content and wording, but see the statement being released the day after a protest and the sit-in as a sign of progress. 

“The [administration’s] attempt to prolong conversations and dialogue in order to put students in a position where they aren’t actually making any change is making the [administrators] comfortable,” the SPC representative said. “Actions like the sit-in and what you’re seeing today [protests] serve to put admin in an uncomfortable position because they simply do not deserve to be comfortable when the injustices around the world and within this institution are occurring. Putting them in a position of discomfort pushes them to accomplish the change that we want to see.”


  1. Well, I know some people whose ears are still ringing because of your bullhorn. And I want to know if there are any pictures of kids from FoxComm with the title “Murdered by Apple User at Swarthmore.”

    I applaud students who want to change the world. I think they should push Swarthmore to use their funds justly. But even if Swarthmore met their demands and then some it would have zero impact. Instead, they are causing pain to their peers and the people who have made a life out of building such a safe and nurturing environment., people who are not the enemy.

    What is being advanced by these tactics other than upset? How about saying “Luckily, we are out of the line of fire and so we will do all we can to reach out to our Jewish brothers and sisters in the spirit of dialogue and civility?”

    • the bullhorns are kinda cheap and not that loud I don’t know how their ears could be ringing…. I barely hear the speakers sometimes during rallies. maybe your friends are a bit dramatic.

      also I want to note there is an ongoing genocide by the way, 700+ dead in the last 24 hours. so many students at the sit in are in pain, and so many of them have built a community with each other through collective care and mourning, more than the college ever could.

      also! there are jewish brothers and sisters at the sit in 🙂 Jewish Voices for Peace is one of the organizations here. your comment seems very biased and I implore you to evaluate yourself and your stances… you don’t wanna be seen supporting an apartheid state and genocide a couple years from now.

  2. I suppose if these students are upset with the College not meeting their demands, they can drop out. There are hundreds of students who would gladly fill their spots and are probably more likely to respect others’ right to use Parrish Hall, follow the code of conduct, and be grateful for the opportunity to attend Swarthmore.

    • over 1,000 students have signed the petition backing these demands. If you’re not content with the fact that the swarthmore community collectively condemns genocide, upholds the rights of students to free speech, and stands behind the Swarthmore Palestine Coalition, feel free to drop out !!! Can’t wait to see you leave our community💕💕💕💕

      • The 10/7 attack on Israeli’s and the hostages are not lies. Hamas is a terrorist organization and their actions are unjustified. Until you acknowledge this and Israel’s right to exist, it is difficult to have a dialogue with you.

        • We won’t acknowledge a genocidal terrorist state that killed over 20,000 civilians. Find a new college to be racist in

            • Israelis living between the River and the Sea should leverage their privileges as Israeli citizens to secure the right of Palestinians to return, remove checkpoints, end the war on Gaza, and remove all the borders that upkeep this apartheid regime. how can you support the existence of a state that explicitly forbids millions of people from returning to the land that they were living on for centuries?

            • Hi Michelle! Quick question: what do you think happened to the Palestinians living between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean sea at the establishment of the state of Israel?

              I’ll let you know: “Between 1947 and 1949, at least 750,000 Palestinians from a 1.9 million population were made refugees beyond the borders of the state. Zionist forces had taken more than 78 percent of historic Palestine, ethnically cleansed and destroyed about 530 villages and cities, and killed about 15,000 Palestinians in a series of mass atrocities, including more than 70 massacres.”

              The actions of Palestinians have been in response to Israeli occupation and ethnic cleansing. Israel denies Palestinians the right to return to their homes, their parents homes, their grandparents homes. Before the Nakba, in 1940, the city of Yaffa (now tel-aviv) was 30% Jewish. Coexisting is possible, and will take concerted effort, not justifying ethnic cleansing by theorizing future ethnic cleansing.

  3. Seems to me like these “protestors” are just using this as an opportunity to make themselves feel good while causing real harm to their community and the students around them who just want to go to class. As a Swarthmore student, many of the actions SJP has taken seem to be more aimed at targeting and harassing fellow students rather than appealing to the administration. How does covering the dorms with hundreds of posters have any other purpose other than trying to create a stifling political atmosphere where the only acceptable ideas are SJP’s antisemitic vitriol?

    Our community has no need for these self-centered, narcissistic “activists.” If they’re so upset, maybe they should drop out and make room for actual students who actually come here with the intention of learning.

    • These “protestors” and “self-centered, narcissistic activists” make up a majority of the student body and consist of over 20 other student organizations and affinity groups. what harm are they causing the community? people are coming together in community to heal, mourn, and protest an institution actively funding the deaths of so many innocent people. isn’t this the inclusive diverse community that swarthmore has been trying so hard to create??

      and also i’ve seen many of the posters and none of them seem to be antisemitic, they simply call for students to join them in rallies and sign petitions. however, I have seen concerning posters showing the burnt corpse of a woman claiming that Hamas was the one that did it without showing any proof or source. it is concerning that the group doing this would show such horrific images along with blatant lies in order to stifle the movement of another student group on campus similar to how administrators are doing. it is truly disappointing and anti-palestinian.

  4. Amazing to see people be so gullible that they openly support terrorists. I guess some students at this school spend either spend too much time on TikTok and Instagram or are so egotistical that they really believe they are world-changing activists. It’s a shame that you have to make the rest of us listen to your toxic attention-seeking protests though.

    I guess it makes sense for this to happen since Swarthmore went test-optional and started letting people in solely on the amount of “activism” they did in high school. You guys should really be thanking the administration for letting you in when most of you have no academic right to be here!

    • It’s funny to me how the same crowd that’s always complaining of how coddled and sensitive college students are will suddenly cry bloody murder at the “real harms” caused by protesters, which as far as I can tell are… using a bullhorn at a rally and hanging some posters?

  5. Nothing Israel does is out of hatred of Arabs or racism. Every security checkpoint and military engagement is to protect its 9 million citizens, 7 million Jews, 2 million Arabs. If every Hamas and other Palestinian liberation organizations put down their guns and stopped committing acts of terror the security walls, the movement restrictions, and everything else would come to an end. The lives of the Palestinians would only improve. If Israel put down its guns 7 million Jews would die.

    I am happy to answer any questions.

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