We refuse to remain silent – ​​Castleton Spartan

VTSU students and faculty sit in front of Woodruff Hall to protest the war in Palestine.

On Friday, May 3, VTSU Castleton students staged a sit-in to demand a ceasefire in Gaza.

The protest, organized by Eva Zimmerman, another Castleton student, saw dozens of students stationed outside the campus’s Fine Arts Center, making 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 conversations about what’s happening in Gaza,” Zimmerman said. “We need to provide a space for students to talk about the issue and be together, regardless of their feelings.” »

Other students explained why they thought it was important to attend the peaceful sit-in.

“We’re here to raise awareness about ethnic cleansing – I would call it ethnic cleansing – that has been going on for six months now, which is crazy,” said Rsshiksa Gurung, secretary of the Castleton NAACP chapter. “We are just sitting in solidarity for them. We are trying to make a change.

So the students were able to work on signs and face painting, all filled to the brim with the red, green, black and white of Palestine, and filled with peace signs, hearts and demands for freedom of Palestine. With every car passing the Palace of Fine Arts, these signs were held high and proud.

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

He added that VTSU “is committed to maintaining an open, welcoming and safe environment that supports freedom of expression and inquiry, allowing for different viewpoints and respectful dialogue,” and that it “encourages all members of our VTSU community to be open to the views and opinions of others in order to understand and better inform their own.

Many students said they were not adequately informed on the subject. Gurung said the goal of the sit-in “is to let people know what is happening in Palestine.”

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

“I feel like there are a lot of people saying this and that and that can influence what people think or know about the subject,” Abed Alawi said. “This is why I appreciate sit-ins like this. It’s a calmer and easier way to approach 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 mother, who cares a lot about this, it meant a lot to her to know that I was going to do this, so I wanted to make her happy and let her know that I was doing my best to contribute,” he said. he declares. “When I saw this, I thought it was a good opportunity for me to peacefully protest what was happening 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 that “the silence is too loud,” said student Lily Downey.

Student Tiaria Robinson agreed.

“I wanted to show my support because I saw on other campuses around the world that they were protesting and it was really quiet here, so I wanted to be a part of something,” Robinson said.

Despite the silence on campus, philosophy professor Brendan Lalor said “it’s very relevant” in his classes, which have had many discussions on the topic.

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

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

“The theory provides check boxes that must be checked in order to plausibly justify the use of violence, and we don’t think those boxes can be checked,” he said.

Another student, Samie Hayward, said she had “wanted to go to something like this for a while” because “seeing families buried and killed in Palestine day after day is heartbreaking.”

Zimmerman said she was happy to hear the ongoing discussions.

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