The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

Sit-in condemning university’s ‘complicity’ in Israel-Hamas war garners national attention, triggers disciplinary charges against involved students

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Jessica Xing
Students gather around a white scroll enumerating the names of hundreds of Palestinian children killed in the Israel-Hamas war at a Dec. 1 sit-in in Curry Student Center. The demonstration, organized by HFP, resulted in some participants facing disciplinary action from the university.

Huskies for a Free Palestine held a sit-in Dec. 1 protesting the university’s research partnerships with companies sending military weapons to Israel and expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people. According to a post on the group’s Instagram, over 100 participants showed up to the eight-hour demonstration, during which attendees chanted pro-Palestine slogans and wielded posters condemning the university.

Overlapping with the sit-in was Northeastern Chabad’s pre-planned Shabbat dinner on the fourth floor of Curry Student Center. Attendees who spoke to The News said they had to walk past the demonstration to get to the dinner and that loud chants disrupted the event. In the days following the protest, some Jewish students expressed concerns about language and signage used at the sit-in that they perceived to be antisemitic and said the sit-in’s location felt “targeted.”

On Dec.11, the university announced it would bring disciplinary actions against “several” members of Huskies for a Free Palestine, or HFP, for failing to adhere to the Student Code of Conduct, which includes guidelines pertaining to noise, compliance with university demands and unauthorized events on campus. HFP said in an Instagram post that the charges are “unjust” and “arbitrary” and launched a petition calling on the university to halt disciplinary proceedings. 

HFP condemns university’s “complicity” in Israel-Hamas war

A white scroll spanning most of the floor and filled with hundreds of names and ages of Palestinian children killed in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war  — most of them 3 or 4 years old — was laid out in full display on the second floor of Curry Student Center during the sit-in. Dozens of students sat around it, occasionally yelling “shame” to show their disapproval of the university and its actions regarding the war. 

The chants, posters and black-and-white keffiyehs that filled the student center were not an unprecedented sight on campus; the event was the most recent in a series of pro-Palestine demonstrations organized by HFP, a campus group unaffiliated with the university and not officially registered as a club, that have been held since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.  

Students at the sit-in, which ran from noon to 8 p.m. and was met with police presence from the Northeastern University Police Department, or NUPD, expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people and called on the university to publicly demand an immediate ceasefire and divest from companies that produce weapons being sent to Israel. 

“We are here today for a sit-in to honor and to sit in solidarity with Palestinian people who are experiencing genocide in Gaza,” said a speaker at the rally who asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns. “We want to sit collectively as a community at Northeastern and hold space, to say that we care and to say that we will not be silenced by the administration or opposition.”

Among the signage spread throughout the sit-in area was a large poster hanging off the third floor of Curry that read “globalize the Intifada,” a slogan referring to historical Palestinian uprisings against Israel which is commonly used at pro-Palestine demonstrations to show support for Palestinian resistance to what protestors say is Israeli occupation. Jewish organizations have pointed to the phrase as calling for violence against “Israelis, Jews, and institutions supporting Israel,” according to the American Jewish Committee, causing disputes about its usage across universities.

After the university released a statement Oct. 10 condemning Hamas’ attacks on Israel, students in support of Palestine have decried what they say is the statement’s failure to address the role Israel has played in the oppression of Palestinians. Many also say they’ve felt a lack of support for Palestinian, Muslim and Arab students since the war’s outbreak.

“I am frustrated, disappointed and appalled that our university did not offer more support for Palestinian, Arab and Muslim students, especially at times when Islamophobia is at its highest,” said another speaker at the rally, who asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns. 

Another speaker emphasized the university’s “complicity” in the conflict because of its research partnerships with companies like Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics — some of the United States’ top weapons contractors. The speaker also criticized the university’s lack of transparency with regard to how its $1.54 billion endowment is allocated, saying this makes it harder to ascertain how much support the university is giving these companies.

“Northeastern has explicit ties with war profiteering companies that are creating the weapons and the bombs that are currently raining down in Gaza and Palestine,” the speaker, who asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns, said. “Northeastern, by maintaining friendly ties with these companies, is directly responsible for blowing up children.”

According to data obtained by BBC from Gazan officials, over 20,000 deaths have been reported in Gaza since the outbreak of the war, the majority of which — reportedly around 70% — have been women and children. 

At the sit-in, speakers and attendees expressed their belief that what is occurring in the region is a genocide. 

“I think it’s unthinkable that we’re watching a genocide happen in front of our eyes. And the country that I live in is continuing business as normal,” said an attendee who asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns. “I can’t go on like that. I need to do something with my time.”

Throughout the sit-in, tour groups and families visiting the school gazed at the scene as participants chanted “Aoun, it’s time to take a stand, Gaza’s blood is on your hands” and “No more missiles, no more bombs, NEU whose side are you on?”

Sit-in sparks national attention, criticism from Jewish students

Two floors above the sit-in, these same chants could be heard by attendees of Northeastern Chabad’s last Shabbat dinner of the semester, a weekly, religiously-significant event celebrating the Sabbath. Attendees of the dinner who spoke to The News said they felt the sit-in was “targeted” toward Jewish students and that they were emotionally distressed by language at the sit-in they perceived to be “hate speech.” 

Tali Peretz, a business administration major who graduated in December 2023, said she had to walk past the sit-in to get to the Shabbat dinner, which was being held on the fourth floor of Curry. She said that though she did not feel physically threatened, seeing the “globalize the Intifada” poster was “emotionally unsettling” and “harmful.”

“The Intifada poster was very emotionally devastating,” said Peretz, who has family in Israel. “My father’s been in an Intifada and has seen terror attacks happen firsthand –– it was hard to see, especially since I wasn’t walking towards a pro-Israel event, just a Jewish religious practice.”

Peretz attended a prayer event, also held in Curry, about two hours before the 7 p.m. dinner. She said the prayers were disrupted by distant sounds of people “screaming” “from the river to the sea” and “calling for Intifada.”

Sion Dweck, a second-year computer science major, was also at the Shabbat dinner and participated in prayers beforehand. He said he thinks many of the posters he saw while on his way to the third floor contained “hate speech.”

Onlookers on the third and fourth floor of Curry Student Center gaze at the sit-in below them. Some Jewish students expressed concern that chants and signage used at the protest contained hate speech. (Jessica Xing)

“I [walked] by on my way to pray and I see people lined up, calling for, whatever they think it means, ‘globalized Intifada,’” said Dweck, whose family lives in Israel. “If you look at the Intifada –– and they mistakenly claim that [the Intifadas were] mostly peaceful –– it’s certainly characterized by suicide bombings on busses, buildings, restaurants –– targeting civilians, which is my family.”

On Dec. 7, Benjamin Ebner, a 2022 alumnus of the university, began circulating an open letter addressed to President Joseph E. Aoun and Northeastern administration calling on the university to take action against antisemitism on campus, directly referencing the Dec. 1 sit-in.

“The language used by the protesting group implies direct harm and calls for the extermination of the Jewish people worldwide,” the letter, which has been signed by over 100 students and alumni and their friends, family and “allies,” read. “This is deeply offensive to Jewish students, including those attending the Shabbat dinner, and falls within the realm of anti-Semitism.”

HFP addressed allegations of hate speech in an Instagram post Dec. 8, mainly responding to similar claims made in a Daily Wire article published Dec. 5 about the sit-in.

“Much has already been said about the uninspired demonization of these phrases,” the post read. “‘Intifada’ simply means ‘uprising,’ and to globalize the intifada means to unite the world in opposing the settler colonial state of Israel and its violence against Palestinians.”

Peretz also said she felt the location and timing of the event was targeted towards Jewish students and was aimed at disrupting the Shabbat dinner. According to Chabad’s website, the location of the dinner “can vary,” but the location for the Dec.1 Shabbat was posted on Facebook Nov. 27. HFP announced the location of the sit-in Nov. 30 in an Instagram post.

“I think the way they timed it on a Friday evening in a place that doesn’t normally have a lot of traffic,” Peretz said. “That night specifically had a lot of traffic solely from Jewish students. It’s very targeted, in my opinion.”

HFP said in the Dec. 8 Instagram post that it was not aware that a Shabbat dinner was occurring in Curry until “several hours” into the sit-in and that the goal of the demonstration was to “disrupt business-as-usual” at the university.

Peretz and Dweck said they were disappointed the university did not take steps to shut down the protest before or while it was occurring. 

“The university knew that this was going to be inflammatory because they know there are Jewish students on the third floor, and about 150 of them were going to come in the next few hours and that [the sit-in] was going on downstairs,” Dweck said, mentioning that he saw members of university administration present at the demonstration. 

StandWithUs, an “international nonprofit Israel education organization,” according to its website, posted a video of the sit-in to its Instagram page, which has a following of over 1 million people. The organization called protesters “pro-Hamas” in the caption of the post and condemned the protester’s posters calling for an Intifada.

“Northeastern’s administration was present, but took no action to shut down the demonstration,” StandWithUs wrote. “Jewish students were met with chants from the pro-Hamas students calling for the murder of their people.”

The university did not respond to requests for comment about whether university administration was present at the sit-in. HFP declined to comment to The News on students’ concerns about the sit-in beyond its Instagram posts. 

Members of sit-in facing disciplinary action from university

On Dec. 11, Northeastern Global News, or NGN, a university-run news outlet, published an article addressing “frequently asked questions” regarding the university’s responses to campus demonstrations regarding the war. In the article, the university stated that “several” of HFP’s leaders “did not comply with clear direction from NUPD and Student Life staff” and are now facing disciplinary action consistent with the Code of Student Conduct

According to a Dec. 16 post on the HFP Instagram page, attendees received notices of disciplinary action from the university Dec. 13. 

“By threatening sanctions for participating in peaceful acts of solidarity with Palestine, Northeastern is attempting to punish students for calling attention to its complicity in genocide,” the post read, calling the charges brought against students “arbitrary” and “unjust” and stating that the university is “bowing to Zionist pressure.”

HFP declined to tell The News how many people are facing disciplinary action and what charges and consequences students are facing, but said in the Instagram post that “Northeastern is singling out a handful of students out of over 100 attendees.”

The Instagram post went on to say that accused students are not provided with the evidence against them and are not allowed to have lawyers present at their hearings, which are scheduled for January. 

Hearings for accused students will be conducted by the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution, or OSCCR, the NGN article said. Students are being disciplined for violating the Code of Student Conduct, which prohibits “disruptive gatherings,” “failure to comply,” “noise” and “violation of Center for Student Involvement guidelines.”

According to the article, campus events must go through a “rigorous vetting process” to receive authorization from the university. If an unauthorized demonstration does take place, NUPD and the Center for Student Life bring the demonstration to a “quick and peaceful conclusion,” the article read. 

“In all cases this semester, NUPD and staff have successfully brought unsanctioned protests to a close in a peaceful manner,” the article read. NUPD was present throughout Curry during the sit-in, however, the event lasted until its planned end time of 8 p.m.

According to the NGN article, students who violate university policy may face loss of privileges, probation, suspension or expulsion from the university and outcomes of individual disciplinary proceedings will not be made public due to privacy policies. 

Dweck and Peretz said Chabad and other Jewish students on campus have held numerous meetings with university administration to address their concerns about antisemitism and unauthorized events. 

“I think disciplinary action is needed, but I think that there’s no preventative steps that the university is taking,” Peretz said. “I feel like everything they’re doing is just after the fact, and I would like them to be way more preventative because this has been an ongoing struggle for students on campus.”

In the Dec. 16 Instagram post, HFP accused the university of unjustly targeting pro-Palestinian students and being “invested in supporting Israeli apartheid.” The group has been circulating a petition to urge the university to “drop the charges” against students at the sit-in, which garnered over 2,090 signatures as of Dec. 21. The group is also asking students and members of the Northeastern community to send emails to and call OSCCR to ask them to halt disciplinary hearings. 

In a faculty senate meeting held Dec. 6, Provost David Madigan addressed the sit-in in response to a question about the protest disrupting another university event. Madigan said the unauthorized standing of HFP made the situation “challenging” to deal with. 

“I will say our approach to these things is that speech is protected,” Madigan said, emphasizing that the university allows protests but does not allow “hate speech” or disruptions of “university business.” “There were some rule violations and they will be investigated and pursued in the usual manner that these things are handled.”

 

About the Contributors
Emily Spatz, Campus Editor
Emily Spatz is a journalism and political science combined major with a minor in english and campus editor of The News. She is currently a general assignment reporter co-op at Boston.com has interned at her hometown newspaper covering business, city events and politics. She hopes to continue bringing pertinent, timely and thorough reporting to the Northeastern community. You can follow her @emilymspatz on X.
Jessica Xing, Photo Editor
Jessica Xing is a third-year graphic design major with a minor in journalism. She has previously served as deputy photo editor and design editor, and is excited to continue working with photographers for The News this semester.
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