Following a student-orchestrated walkout last week in support of Palestinians in Gaza, Howard University gave its position on the Israel-Gaza conflict in a statement. The university expressed concern about the “innocent children and adult victims of targeted hate,” referencing the “violent atrocities” that have occurred in the conflict between Israel and Gaza.
“Violence of any kind, in any place, should never be tolerated,” the statement emailed to The Hilltop said. “At Howard University, we stand for peace and progress, and we pray for an end to this conflict and the humanitarian and personal suffering of the Israeli and Palestinian people because violence and hatred must never be tolerated.”
In addition to the Oct. 25 walkout, the statement also follows a student-led vigil on Oct. 23, in support of Palestinians in Gaza. Students at these gatherings condemned the university for not publicly speaking on the matter.
The statement was released 18 days after the militant group Hamas’ surprise attacks on Israel on Oct. 7. The attacks have led to a divide between those who support Israel, and those who support Palestine on college campuses and around the world.
Israeli-Palestinian relations have been strained for more than 75 years, according to the Council of Foreign Relations. According to The New York Times, about 1,400 Israelis have been killed since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, and more than 8,000 civilians in Gaza have been killed by Israel counter airstrikes as of Oct. 29. Almost 3,000 of those killed have been children.
Howard University encouraged students with different perspectives on the matter to share them respectfully. “Since our founding, Howard University has been a place where thought leaders and advocates for change have come to speak about issues impacting communities domestically and around the globe,” the statement continued.
When engaging in dialogue, the statement emphasized that the rights and views of others need to be respected.
“Howard University is also a place where we encourage our students and campus community to engage in constructive dialogue, feeling comfortable enough to express themselves, while understanding the need to respect the rights and views of others – even when those views may differ from their own,” the statement said.
Students and faculty on campus had mixed opinions regarding the statement left by the university. Whilst some thought it was very reflective of the majority’s needs and the situation’s complexities, others are left viewing it as unfocused, they said.
Human rights professor Dr. Kwame Dixon commented on the nature of the statement towards Howard’s diverse communities.
“Given the complexity of the conflict and the deep fissures in the region, the statement is well-balanced and morally centered,” he said. “No statement will satisfy everyone nor should it, but HU’s statement attempts to be respectful of the geo-strategic tensions and contradictions in the region.”
Dixon made note of the “glaring global hypocrisy of the corporate media with respect to how they are framing the conflict.” Despite this, he believes that “we should not be led to believe that one group is more or less deserving of human rights.”
Senior chemistry major Saeed Mohammed thought the statement was lacking. “I don’t see it as a statement, it’s mostly talking about what they’ve done in the past and not really commenting on what’s going on right now,” he said. The student from South Africa recalled wearing “Free Palestine” hoodies from as early as the third grade.
“21 years later I’m still here representing,” Mohammed said. “It made me sad when this came up again in the media. After all these years, they are still going through the same oppression.”
Ph.D. student in the African Studies department Rodney Smith felt as though the university could have made a far bolder statement.
“I think the Howard University stance is bland and lacking a display of palatable, visceral rejection of this war as legitimate,” he said. “The delay [in Howard giving a statement] should have resulted in a more powerful response in word or through action. Howard demonstrates no commitment to taking an institutional stance on the injustices.”
Junior criminology major and business administration minor, Félicité Mbaye, from New Jersey by way of the Ivory Coast said Howard’s statement avoided controversy.
“I feel like Howard doesn’t know how to go about commenting because they don’t want to step on people’s toes. I feel like in itself, they are proud of their students. They don’t want to make it political,” Mbaye said.
She commended the freedom of speech present at Howard when referencing the student-led walkout. “Students here, if we feel upset with something, we’ll speak on it and we’ll gather other students,” she said. “We need to educate ourselves before we rush in to support a side.”
Several universities across the United States have put out statements regarding their stance on the conflict. Universities such as Penn State University, University of Rochester, Indiana University and Northwestern University have shown support to Israel. Others such as Stanford University haven’t taken an exact stance but rather expressed concern for the safety and mental health of students, similar to Howard’s statement.
Notable donors to Harvard University such as hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin are “warning of grave errors” when looking at the neutral stances taken by the schools, according to the New York Times. Similarly, donors to the University of Pennsylvania, like private equity CEO Marc Rowan, are opposing donations following the school’s failure to denounce students who were criticizing Israel, according to the New York Post. They urge them to condemn the criticism of Israel that is happening on their campuses.
Copy edited by Alana Matthew
Howard University Oct. 25 emailed statement to The Hilltop
Since our founding, Howard University has been a place where thought leaders and advocates for change have come to speak about issues impacting communities domestically and around the globe. Howard University is also a place where we encourage our students and campus community to engage in constructive dialogue, feeling comfortable enough to express themselves, while understanding the need to respect the rights and views of others – even when those views may differ from their own.
Since this crisis began, our hearts have ached for the innocent children and adult victims of targeted hate as well as their loved ones whose lives are forever altered because of these violent atrocities.
Violence of any kind, in any place, should never be tolerated. At Howard University, we stand for peace and progress, and we pray for an end to this conflict and the humanitarian and personal suffering of the Israeli and Palestinian people because violence and hatred must never be tolerated.