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Students camp and protest for Palestine in ISU quad, potential university involvement

Written by on May 1, 2024

NORMAL, Ill. – Students of Illinois State University have joined other campuses across the country as they protest their university’s potential involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At approximately 12:30 p.m. yesterday the group, “Students for Justice in Palestine ISU,” began protesting as they set up several tents, posters and other decorations around the center of ISU’s quad. Specifically occupying the main gazebo found between Fell Hall and the Old Union building.

Freshman Political-Science major Raseel Khwais is one of the main organizers and also serves as the media liaison of the protest, a visible figure taking the time to speak to media and passersby alike.

She said the main purpose of the protest is for ISU to release information on whether or not they are investing in companies that are aiding in the attacks on Palestinian homes.

“That’s where our first point is disclosure, to give us access to know where our tuition is going, what it’s funding and if it’s funding a genocide in Palestine,” she said.

One example Khwais mentioned was referencing the Caterpillar Auditorium in the State Farm Hall of Business on campus. The group wants to know if there is any connection between the university and Caterpillar Inc., as they are manufacturing bulldozers and other machines sent to the middle east.

Khwais said the protest had been planned for around two weeks, but the announcement was sudden to prevent any action by the university against them.

Other protests at campuses such as Columbia University, Yale University and New York University have resulted in arrests and other action by law enforcement. ISU’s campus has not seen any police involvement; however, protestors received a warning letter from the Dean of Students Office yesterday detailing their violation of the ISU Code of Student Conduct.

Side-walk message written in Chalk that reads, “If our Protest Annoys you, Ignore it like the Genocide.”

 

“Your conduct today may be in violation of Illinois State University Policy…and must be discontinued,” the letter reads. “Failure to comply is grounds for Interim Suspension…you are denied access to all campus facilities, including residence halls and classes…”

Khwais mentioned that the group questions the validity of counting their tents as the “structures” mentioned in the code of conduct. She said that the group took down their tents at approximately 7:22 this morning, at the warning of the Dean of Students that they would immediately suspend everyone in the camp.

She also spoke on other internal pressure from within the university, like that of “Chabad at ISU,” a Jewish student organization that released a statement last week noting the “antisemitic rhetoric around campus.”

“It doesn’t make sense to us, their responses don’t make sense to us,” Khwais said. “The fact that they’re claiming that us supporting Palestine is inherently antisemitic tells us that there’s something about supporting Palestine that is seen as less than human.”

The students currently have no plans to dismiss their encampment, despite the warning from ISU that their final examinations could be impacted, and possible rain forecasted for early Friday morning.

Khwais also discussed how the group feels it is not difficult to get them to leave and please their demands.

“It is so easy to get us to leave without, you know, coming by and threatening us to leave,” she said. “It’s by disclosing ISU’s affiliation with companies that might be funding Israel or that might have a relationship with Israel. It’s by divesting from those companies, which we think is the moral and ethical thing to do, and then maybe issuing a statement to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.”

Decorated Gazebo by Pro-Palestine students on the ISU Quad. (Hanging Posters have since been removed.)