About 75 UR students held a sit-in protest at Georgen Hall this past Friday Feb. 6, organized by Students for a Democratic Society, to show solidarity with the plight of Gaza Strip civilians. The protest highlights an important idea while the University should encourage students to be politically aware and active, UR itself should remain non-partisan.
Not all of the protesters’ demands were agreeable, but all of their activism was. This demonstration will hopefully be continued in the future by student groups from all sides of the political spectrum. UR administrators acted admirably by quickly compromising with SDS’s demands without resorting to force. By modifying the agreement, the University has the chance to act for humanitarian interests while maintaining its neutrality in armed conflicts abroad. UR should never take sides in sensitive conflicts, especially ones that world leaders and political bodies themselves are divided between.
Some aspects of the agreement should be broadened to include other war-torn zones; it is not UR’s place to take sides in a war, as in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Specifically, the University should offer scholarships for students from conflict areas in foreign countries, not just for victims in Palestinian conflict. An international scholarship program to war-torn areas would greatly increase diversity on the River Campus and strengthen UR’s world standing.
With regard to the first condition of the agreement, unused or second-rate supplies, such as old editions of textbooks, should go to students and universities in need around the world, not just the University of Gaza. A program to ship old goods that would otherwise be thrown out to poor regions can be the start of an admirable humanitarian project at little cost to UR.
Finally, the University needs to make all investments related to foriegn entities and weapons producing companies transparent. If the University makes investments transparent, students can properly decide whether UR’s decisions are unethical or violate human rights. Students do care about UR’s finances and deserve to know where their tuition money goes.
By broadening the agreement, UR has a chance to start new humanitarian initiatives while maintaining its neutrality abroad and better serving its student body.