DePauw students criticize university’s anti-Palestinian statements, denounce Israeli assault

In a campus-wide email on October 19, DePauw University President Dr. Lori White apologized for her “failure” to “denounce” Hamas as a “terrorist organization” that targets “our Jewish brothers, sisters, and Israel that she “failed to and should have strongly and unequivocally denounced Hamas–and the violence perpetuated upon our Jewish brothers, sisters, and Israel—as the terrorist organization that it is.”

White went on to condemn antisemitism and call the latest anti-colonial uprising in Palestine “the worst attack on Jewish people since the Holocaust.” Leaving aside this remarkably ignorant statement, Dr. White has yet to admit she was wrong and that we now know it was Israeli forces who were responsible for the vast majority of deaths on October 7. Even Israeli military officials have admitted as much, with Amos Harel, a senior military analyst, explaining that Brig. Gen. Avi Rosenfeld ordered an attack on his military base that was filled with Israeli public-sector workers.

An Israeli military report found Israelis used helicopters to murder their own civilians at a concert on October 7. This is backed up by an Israeli survivor’s testimony:

According to her account, many Israeli civilians were killed when Israeli forces opened fire with heavy weapons including tank shells at the small kibbutz house they were held by Palestinian fighters. Up to that point, Porat told Israel’s official broadcaster Kan, the Palestinian fighters had treated the Israeli civilians “humanely.”

Yasmin Porat

White’s October 19 email, which you can read in full here, states the Palestinians caused “the violent deaths of innocent men, women and children.” Of course, she did not acknowledge the deaths—and, thus, the lives—of Palestinians, merely acknowledging that “our Palestinian brothers and sisters and others in Gaza who have been working and praying for peace are suffering and experiencing a humanitarian crisis.”

Although White called for “solidarity with those directly affected,” the university has remained completely silent on the ongoing genocide by Israel.

Students lead as university leaders hide

Unlike the university administration, which has demonstrated no leadership whatsoever, students have stepped up to take responsibility for this role, a role for which they are uncompensated and willingly embrace on top of their already burdensome courses, extracurricular activities, jobs, and other responsibilities. On October 25, the Democratic Socialists of DePauw (DSD) held the first campus-wide dialogue on Palestine that was widely popular, attracting around 40 people at a university whose student body is around 1,700.

On November 4, DSD organized a protest in coordination with the National March for Palestine in Greencastle, a small rural town about 50 miles west of Indianapolis. As Quan Nguyen reported for The DePauw, over 70 people showed up, including “10 students from other universities who arrived at DePauw for the Great Lakes Colleges Association Students of Color Conference.” After an open debriefing session, they worked with the DePauw Muslim Student Association to host a workshop titled “Palestine in Context” on November 15. They are currently doing a collective study of Richard Becker’s Palestine, Israel and the U.S. Empire.

DSD leader America Bañuelos told the Indianapolis Liberator that they had no choice but to act. “We refuse to stand by and be complicit and allow our administration to not be held accountable for spreading uneducated and harmful rhetoric,” she said. “We have continued to amplify Palestinian cries for liberation and will do so until Palestine is free.”

DSD’s faculty advisor, Professor Derek Ford—who is also an organizer with the Indianapolis Liberation Center and has been involved in the anti-war movement since 2006—told the Liberator he was not surprised by the right-wing talking points reiterated. “I was more saddened by the complete misrepresentation of the facts or, at best, the gross ignorance communicated.” He said he was initially concerned about the negative impact this would have on all oppressed students at his university, but his students immediately acted positively, embracing the challenge. “I can’t believe I doubted our students for even a second,” he said, “because they are some of the most resilient and bold people I know and work with.”

Some DePauw University faculty and other workers issued a call for the university to speak out on Palestine. The Indianapolis Liberator obtained the letter, which can be read here.

Featured photo: DePauw University students hold up a banner days after the November 4 protest. Credit: Democratic Socialists of DePauw.

Note: We previously included the above-mentioned letter but have removed it and published it on its own to ensure it is not conflated with this article.