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Swarthmore Faculty/Staff Response to April 23rd Letter from Acting Co-Presidents Sakomura & Goldberg

Dear Members of the Swarthmore Community,

We write to express our strong support for the right of our students to engage in peaceful protest. We were alarmed by the letter sent by Acting Co-Presidents Sakomura and Goldberg on April 23rd – “Protest Activity on Campus” – regarding the Gaza Solidarity Encampment on Parrish lawn. Written one day after the encampment began, the letter preemptively seeks to depict it as threatening and unsafe, in the absence of any evidence to support this characterization. By manufacturing a climate of hostility, the College promotes an interpretation of student activism as intrinsically violent and anti-educational, distracting from and distorting our students’ serious efforts to think through the most pressing issue of our time. It is particularly poignant that the letter creates this false sense of danger on campus when hostility toward the empowering potential of education has led to Israel’s destruction of every single university in Gaza, as well as most of its other schools, libraries, and bookstores. The letter rightly states that “our ability to understand and engage with diverse views is critical to Swarthmore’s educational experience.” Yet the letter itself ultimately undermines this aspect of our mission. 

If, as Acting Co-Presidents Sakomura and Goldberg write, “we expect that students and their allies will protest peacefully,” why do they also find the encampment “deeply concerning” and promise that it “will be included in our ongoing investigations into possible policy violations related to activism throughout the past several months”? The point of the disciplinary process is to investigate specific incidents of potential misconduct. In the absence of naming what policies the encampment might violate, we are left to conclude that the administration is willfully hunting  for “possible policy violations,” rather than responding to actual infractions of the code of conduct, and misusing the disciplinary process to chill student activism.  

To that end, the letter frames the encampment’s solidarity with Gaza as antisemitic, proposing that the “rising tensions on many campuses” “may be exacerbated by the fact that these national protests come at the start of Passover and as antisemitism across the country and around the world is on the rise.” But none of the students’ demands, which we strongly encourage members of the campus community to read for themselves, antagonize members of any religious or racial group. Equating solidarity with Gaza and antisemitism distorts the meaning of antisemitism. In doing so, it erases the many Jews, at Swarthmore and elsewhere, raising their voices against the genocide in Gaza and for Palestinian liberation. On our campus, such solidarity is evidenced at the encampment itself, which will host a Passover seder on Sunday. 

The letter also states that the protest “may cause some students, faculty, and staff members to feel uncomfortable or even intimidated” and recommends they avail themselves of counseling resources CAPS and Carebridge. With these directives, Acting Co-Presidents Sakomura and Goldberg jump to depict the protest as intimidating and even traumatizing when there have been no reported incidents of intimidation, much less trauma. Nonetheless, the Acting Co-Presidents announce they will be “increasing Public Safety’s presence on campus.” We wonder which of these actions – pitching tents on the lawn or surveilling students – members of campus are more likely to find uncomfortable or intimidating, especially given students’ recent reports of harassment by a Public Safety officer. This is to say nothing of the terrifying scenes of police aggression brought to bear on pro-Palestine and anti-war protestors at Columbia, NYU, Cal Poly Humboldt, University of Texas-Austin, Emory University, and elsewhere over the past week. We urge Swarthmore College to hold itself to the standard of intellectual and moral integrity it claims, and to resist the weaponization of “comfort” and “safety” that has taken hold at so many institutions around the country.

We are currently witnessing the largest wave of campus repression in the United States since the 1960s. We expect Swarthmore College, with its Quaker heritage and its stated commitment to social justice, to have the courage not to fall in line and instead to act on its values. Union Theological Seminary President Serene Jones’s own recent letter to her community offers a model of how to do this. So, too, do the actions of our students, who have worked for months to respond to the scale of suffering and destruction in Gaza when the U.S. government and institutions of higher education refuse to do so. Their encampment is a continuation of their education, as the reading, study, and discussion taking place there indicate. It is they who are demonstrating how to do precisely what Acting Co-Presidents Sakomura and Goldberg urge us to do: “to hold in the light all of those suffering through this horrific situation.” We should not be shutting down, distorting, or demonizing their efforts to do so; we should be honoring their example. 

Signed (alphabetical by last name, list in formation):

  1. Dilruba Ahmed, English Literature/Creative Writing
  2. Manal Ahmed, Modern Languages & Literatures/Arabic
  3. Sabeen Ahmed, Philosophy
  4. Maria Aghazarian, Libraries
  5. Tariq al-Jamil, Religion
  6. Khaled Al-Masri, Modern Languages & Literatures/Arabic
  7. Elaine Allard, Educational Studies
  8. Thamyris Almeida, Latin American & Latino Studies
  9. Farid Azfar, History
  10. Alejandra Azuero-Quijano, Sociology & Anthropology
  11. Marissa Baron, Environmental Studies
  12. Jamal Batts, Black Studies
  13. Michael Wilson Becerril, Peace & Conflict Studies
  14. Adrienne Benally, Environmental Studies
  15. Betsy Bolton, English and Environmental Studies
  16. Jen Bradley, Educational Studies
  17. Lette Bragg, Writing Associates Program
  18. Megan Brown, History
  19. Timothy Burke, History
  20. Rachel Sagner Buurma, English Literature
  21. Mariel Capanna, Art
  22. Itzue W. Caviedes Solis, Biology and Environmental Studies
  23. Pallabi Chakravorty, Dance
  24. Sarah Chang, Engineering
  25. Paloma Checa-Gismero, Art History
  26. BuYun Chen, History
  27. Caroline Cheung, Teaching & Learning Commons
  28. Yvonne Chireau, Religion
  29. David Cohen, Physics & Astronomy
  30. Lara Cohen, English
  31. Bernadette Colburn, Print Services
  32. Kirby Conrod, Linguistics
  33. Andrés Pérez Correa ’22, Career Services
  34. Arnaud Courgey, Modern Languages & Literatures/French
  35. Damir Creecy, Biology
  36. Michelle Crouch, Sponsored Programs
  37. Jace St Cyr, CAPS
  38. Laura Dandridge, Mathematics and Statistics
  39. Andrew Danner, Computer Science
  40. Maggie Delano, Engineering
  41. Desiree Diaz, Spanish
  42. Rikker Dockum, Linguistics
  43. Bruce Dorsey, History
  44. Carr Everbach, Engineering
  45. Phil Everson, Mathematics and Statistics
  46. Wambura Fobbs, Psychology
  47. Lila Fontes, Computer Science
  48. Natalie Mera Ford, English/Writing Associates Program
  49. Sibelan Forrester, Russian and Interpretation Theory
  50. Anthony S. Foy, English and Black Studies
  51. Maria Gallagher, Chemistry and Biochemistry
  52. Farha Ghannam, Sociology & Anthropology
  53. Brian Goldstein, Art History
  54. Caitlin Goodman, Friends Historical Library
  55. Chris Graves, Environmental Studies and Chemistry & Biochemistry
  56. Roy Greim ’14, Communications
  57. Alexandra Gueydan-Turek, Modern Languages & Literatures/French
  58. Stephen Hackler, Physics & Astronomy
  59. Sam Handlin, Political Science and Latin American & Latino Studies
  60. K. David Harrison, Linguistics
  61. Maya Henry, research assistant on the CCT Study with Dr. Edwin Mayorga
  62. Andy Hines, Aydelotte Foundation
  63. Hilary Hla, CAPS
  64. Alba Newmann Holmes, Writing Associates Program
  65. Steven P Hopkins, Department of Religion and Asian Studies
  66. Rex Hughes, McCabe Library
  67. Mary Huissen, College Libraries
  68. Cole Hurst, Dining Hall Staff
  69. Maggie Hussar, Intercultural Center
  70. Jeff Hyde, Physics & Astronomy
  71. Paul Jacobs, Physics & Astronomy
  72. Nina Johnson, Sociology & Anthropology and Black Studies
  73. Jody Joyner, Art
  74. Varun Khanna, Classics
  75. Mary Ann Klassen, Physics & Astronomy
  76. Natasha Labbe, CAPS
  77. Terence Leach, Biology
  78. Tiffany Lee, Art History
  79. Maddie LeSage, History
  80. Gerald Levinson, Music
  81. Dahlia Li, Gender and Sexuality Studies
  82. Amanda Licastro, Digital Scholarship Librarian
  83. Roseann Liu, Asian American Studies and Educational Studies
  84. Jose-Luis Machado, Biology, Global Studies, and Environmental Studies
  85. Emad Masroor, Engineering
  86. Edwin Mayorga, Educational Studies
  87. MC Mazzocchi, CAPS
  88. Joanne McCole, Cornell Library
  89. Rebecca Michelson-Ziegler, Libraries
  90. Allison Miller, Mathematics & Statistics
  91. Shailen Mishra, Writing Associates Program
  92. Donna Jo Napoli, Linguistics
  93. Tia Newhall, Computer Science
  94. Chinelo Okparanta, English Literature/Creative Writing
  95. Lei X Ouyang, Music and Asian American Studies
  96. Zachary Palmer, Computer Science
  97. Sangina Patnaik, English Literature
  98. Prea Persaud, Religion
  99. Dawn Philip, CAPS
  100. Katie Price, Lang Center
  101. Salvador Rangel, Sociology & Anthropology
  102. Kristen Recine, Physics & Astronomy
  103. Jesus Rivera, Physics & Astronomy
  104. M. Umar Abdul Rahman, Interfaith Center
  105. Christopher Robison, Modern Languages & Literatures/French
  106. Moriel Rothman-Zecher, English Literature/Creative Writing
  107. Peter Schmidt, English Literature, Black Studies, and Environmental Studies
  108. Christy Schuetze, Sociology & Anthropology
  109. Tali Shapiro, CAPS 
  110. Cynthia Ruimin Shi ‘23, Office of Sustainability and The Lang Center
  111. Ahmad Shokr, History
  112. Patrick Sinko, McCabe Library
  113. Mary Beth Sigado, McCabe Library
  114. Benjamin Smith, Modern Languages & Literatures/Arabic
  115. Marshall Smith, Modern Languages & Literatures/French
  116. Tristan Smith, Physics & Astronomy
  117. Lee Smithey, Peace & Conflict Studies
  118. Lisa Smulyan, Educational Studies
  119. Itzue W. Caviedes Solis, Biology and Environmental Studies
  120. Colette Speakman (staff/AC), Music
  121. Tracey Mia Stewart, Music
  122. Ya Su, Sociology & Anthropology 
  123. Barbara Thelamour, Psychology
  124. Alex Torra, Theater
  125. James Truitt, Friends Historical Library
  126. Vivian Truong, History and Asian American Studies
  127. Eli VandenBerg, CAPS
  128. Roberto Vargas, McCabe Library
  129. Edlin Veras, Sociology & Anthropology
  130. Mark Wallace, Religion and Environmental Studies
  131. Jonathan Washington, Linguistics
  132. Patricia White, Film & Media Studies
  133. Abigail Weil, Libraries
  134. Isaiah Wooden, Theater
  135. Zhuming Yao, Chinese and Interpretation Theory
  136. Matt Zucker, Engineering

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