Why an Encampment?

By The Student Coalition for Justice in Palestine

On May 1, tens of students committed to a liberated zone encampment on the Main Quad. The conditions were harsh, with extreme heat and pouring rain, but we held our ground. We held daily teach-ins, dances, gatherings and several rallies. One of these rallies coincided with Honors Day which was held in the Chapel – right across from our encampment. For disrupting that event (which is our constitutional right for peaceful protest) we received a verbal warning. This meant that the administration finally noticed us and acknowledged our presence. While we were happy about this, we as a coalition were worried about suspensions, arrests and deportations, but our fears do not amount to the United States-financed horrors and tons of bombs being dropped on displaced Gazan tents in Rafah. We are doing this so that our endowment is not financing these war crimes. This is not controversial. Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. It is using internationally banned weapons and it is imposing a deadly starvation on Gazans. There is absolutely no rationale to the dystopian reality we live in; a reality where some students basking in absolute privilege are awarded with honors and certificates while others in a seemingly far away land are stripped away from the luxury of attending schools. During its assault, Israel made sure to bomb and shut down every single medical and educational institution. Every single one of us is complicit in one way or another. We as a coalition will keep doing all of what is in our power to push our institution to divest from genocide, war crimes and apartheid. 

As we hope you have heard, our first demand from Trinity is to disclose details of its direct and indirect investments. And to that, the encampment along with its events and protests have put disclosure and divestment on our Board of Trustees’ agenda. We achieved this over two meetings with members of the administration. The first one with Vice President for Student Success Joe DiChristina, Chief of Staff Jason Rojas and Dean of Community Life Rob Lukaskiewicz. Although we were initially called in after rallying during Honors Day, we only agreed to meet on the condition that we discuss the demands we have presented since December. The second meeting included Dan Hitchell, Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer, and did not involve any mention of disciplinary action. The email “Moving Forward” sent by DiChristina left us feeling betrayed and with no future capacity to trust any closed door communication with the administration. In the meeting that followed the rally during Honors Day, DiChristina and members of the Palestine Coalition agreed that DiChristina would send out an email detailing the happenings of the meeting. Instead, he sent out a vague email assuring the Trinity members he deems significant that students who rallied against genocide during Honors Day were punished, while deliberately neglecting any discussion we had about disclosure and divestment. In a failed attempt to be subtle, the email ended with the threat of the presence of the Hartford Police in the case of failure to “demonstrate appropriate etiquette and respect for the ceremonies,” i.e. commencement. Unlike the administration, we kept our promise of not attempting to disrupt graduation. Following graduation, we attended a meeting with DiChristina to discuss the “Disclosure Report for Investment Committee.” The meeting resulted in 4 significant promises made by the administration, which we share to increase accountability and gravitas incase of neglect:

1) DiChristina will get back to us on the timeline of the meeting of the Board of Trustees in the week of June 3.

2) He will bring to the cabinet our ‘solution’ to their insistence on having designated contact people.

3) He will bring to the cabinet our request to have all members of the administration who meet with us prepared to discuss demands presented to them since December. This is to emphasize that these demands are still significant and to avoid any redundant discussion about the meeting agenda.

4) DiChristina will get back to us regarding our proposal to have a tent with a Palestinian flag on Gates Quad at the end of the summer and into the fall semester to honor the encampment. 

Israeli-caused horrors in Gaza are increasingly becoming indisputable. The International Court of Justice has just ruled that Israel must immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah. The International Criminal Court (ICC) seeks arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant for war crimes. These legalities are not the reason behind our protesting. We see no need nor justification for the destruction of schools, hospitals and the thousands of killings of every living soul in Gaza currently taking place by the Israeli military. These crimes are deemed illegal under international law, but they are undoubtedly crimes against humanity which Trinity is actively funding. We as students at this institution have a duty and an obligation to stop our complicity in the Gaza genocide. ‘Neutrality’ is not an option. A Gazan child is killed every 10 minutes in Gaza. There is no neutral stance on that. 

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