We refuse to stay silent

VTSU students and faculty sit outside Woodruff Hall protesting against the war in Palestine.

 On Friday, May 3, students of VTSU Castleton held a sit-in protest calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The protest, organized by fellow Castleton student Eva Zimmerman, saw dozens of students posted up outside the Fine Arts Center on campus, crafting signs and posters in support of the ceasefire.

“I think it’s really important for our campus – crucial even – because I haven’t heard a lot of conversation about what’s happening in Gaza,” Zimmerman said. “We need to have a space for students to talk about the issue and to be together with whatever feelings they have.” 

Other students discussed why they felt it was important to attend the peaceful sit-in. 

“We’re here to raise awareness for the ethnic cleansing – I would call it ethnic cleansing – that’s going on and it’s been going on for half a year now, which is crazy,” said Castleton’s NAACP Chapter Secretary Risthiksa Gurung. “We’re just sitting in solidarity for them. We’re trying to make a change.”

And thus, students got to work on signs and face paint, all packed to the brim Palestine’s red, green, black and white, and filled with peace signs, hearts, and demands for Palestine’s freedom. With every car that passed the Fine Arts Center, those signs were held high and proud.

Prior to the sit-in, VTSU Interim President David Bergh said he “applauds our students for caring enough to take an active role in shaping our collective future.” 

He went on to say VTSU is “committed to maintaining an open, welcoming, and safe environment that supports freedom of speech and inquiry, allowing for differing views and respectful dialogue,” and that he “encourages everyone in our VTSU community to be open to others’ views and opinions in order to understand and better inform their own.” 

Many students said they haven’t been educated enough on the matter. Gurung said the goal of the sit-in “is to let people know about what’s going on in Palestine.” 

“As soon as I turned 18, I was like ‘oh my god I can legally vote now. I don’t know what to do.’ Everything felt overwhelming, and I feel like this is my first step to becoming informed,” said Keleigh Boise. 

“I feel like there are a lot of people out there who say this and that and it can sway what people think or know about the topic,” said Abed Alawi. “That’s why I appreciate sit-ins like this. It’s a more calm and easy-to-approach way for people to learn and understand what’s going on.”

For Alawi, who comes from a Palestinian family, attending the protest was very personal.

“For my mom, who cares a lot about this, it meant a lot to her knowing that I was going to this, so I wanted to make her happy and let her know that I was trying my best to contribute,” he said. “When I saw about this, I figured it was a good opportunity for me to peacefully protest what’s going on because it’s really unfortunate what’s happening to families on the other side of the world.” 

A common thought among students is that “the campus has been very quiet,” on the issue and “the silence is too loud,” said student Lily Downey.

Student Tiaria Robinson agreed. 

“I wanted to show my support because I’ve seen on other campuses around the world, they’ve been protesting and it’s been really silent here, so I wanted to be a part of something,” Robinson said. 

Despite the reported silence around campus, philosophy Professor Brendan Lalor said that “it’s highly relevant” in his classes, which have had many discussions about the topic.

“We’ve been talking about the ethics of violence, and one of the most common planks of ethical discussion for centuries has been the just war theory,” Lalor said. 

He added that just war theory considers “the justice in the decision to go to war,” as well as “the conduct of the war.”

“The theory provides checkboxes that need to be checked in order to plausibly justify the use of violence, and we’re not seeing that those boxes can be checked,” he said. 

Another student, Samie Hayward, claims to have “been wanting to go to something like this for a while,” because “seeing day after day the families being buried and killed in Palestine is heartbreaking.”

Zimmerman said she’s happy to hear the discussions taking place.

“Even just having space today to sit together and acknowledge what’s happening to Palestinians right now is really important,” Zimmerman said about her goal in organizing the sit-in. “I’m happy if this is the extent of what it is.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post 3B hosts 4th annual football tournament
Next post SGA President resigns unexpectedly