Support, Don’t Punish, the Student Encampments!

MAPA sent the following letter to university presidents and administrators at MIT, Northeastern, Harvard, UMass Amherst, Smith, Emerson, and Tufts

April 30, 2024

To: Presidents of Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts
From: Massachusetts Peace Action Board of Directors

We write to express our deep concern about the decisions made by some administrators of US institutions of higher learning to suppress their students’ peaceful expressions of support for Palestinian civilians in Gaza who are currently under assault by the Israeli military. We strongly urge your administration not to make the same egregious errors.

Massachusetts Peace Action represents thousands of households across the state advocating for peaceful and just solutions to conflicts around the world, and the investment of our tax dollars for human needs at home rather than wars abroad. We recognize that students have always been at the forefront of major social movements in the United States. Their energy and idealism have pointed the way to important domestic and foreign policy reforms in times of upheaval, such as the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the struggle against South Africa apartheid, the anti-nuclear movement, and many more.They are pointing the way forward now.

On many campuses, the students have put their bodies on the line by erecting and living in encampments to demand that their universities end complicity in Israel’s genocidal attacks on Gaza. They are calling for disclosure of university connections to Israel’s military and for divestment of university pension funds from corporations and financial entities doing business with Israel.

Mass. Peace Action strongly supports policies that allow these peaceful and disciplined encampments to continue. Attempts by counter-demonstrators or provocateurs to disrupt activities at the encampments have largely been met with calm and measured responses by the pro-Palestinian students. We urge you to proudly support rather than punish these students, whose idealism and sense of justice has caused them to act, often at significant personal sacrifice.

The scenes that we have witnessed at campuses such as Columbia, Yale, Emory, and others across the country – where nonviolent students have been subjected to mass arrests by armed police and encampments have been disbanded – must no longer be repeated in our state. And here, mass arrests and rough tactics at Emerson and Northeastern must not set the standard. We stand with the students, who are not deterred, and the local civic, housing, labor, religious, and peace groups who are supporting them.

By calling in a disproportionate police response, administrators have made some students unsafe for peacefully expressing one view, in the name of ensuring safety for students who express an opposing view. They are violating the university’s obligation to protect free speech, to not engage in viewpoint discrimination, and to protect the safety of its students.The students are telling us that history will judge what we do in this moment. We must listen to them.

Officers and Members of the Board of Directors of Massachusetts Peace Action, Inc.
Rosalie Anders
Merriam Ansara
Joseph Gerson
Rosemary Kean
Jackie Dee King
Jonathan King
Jeff Klein
Maryellen Kurkulos
Susan Mirsky
Cole Harrison
Val Mogadham
Steve Powell
Nick Rabb
Claire Schaeffer-Duffy
Rev. Vernon K. Walker