NEIU Administration, What Will You Stand For?

NEIU Justice 4 Palestine Vigil
NEIU Justice 4 Palestine Vigil
Zachariah Simmons

On Feb. 24, 2022, Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. On March 2, 2022, the office of NEIU’s then-president Gloria J. Gibson sent out a campus-wide email stating: “In the spirit of solidarity, we call for an end to the conflict in Ukraine and the growing humanitarian crisis.” This response was followed up by a series of events to support these communities and educate students. 

On Oct. 7, 2023, the war between the Zionist state of Israel and militant resistance group Hamas “began.” Following this initial attack, though not the beginning of this discourse by any stretch of the imagination; NEIU’s Interim President Dr. Katrina Bell-Jordan issued an email statement saying: “Like many of you, I am heartbroken by the horrific escalation of violence and tragic loss of life in Gaza and Israel.” Though they did not call for an end to the conflict in any form, nor did it even mention Palestine.

The Palestinian struggle extends past this inciting incident of October 7th. We can track the conflict between Israel and Palestine to the Nakba of 1948, and even earlier to the Balfour Declaration of 1917

Admittedly, there was a series of Zoom-only talks organized by the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion that sought to create a space for dialogue and education surrounding the topic, though none have been planned or executed since Dec 6, 2023.

Why has the administration of this university worked so tirelessly to remain impartial in the face of Palestinian suffering, much less that of any other afflicted community? They have made no real effort to console or comfort the Palestinian, Arab or Muslim communities on campus. There have been no in-person activities or exhibits put forward and there has been a constant refusal to engage with student media regarding these issues. Why?

I do not have the answers to these questions and I do not deign to think they would be simple or easy to parse through even if provided. But we must demand a more adequate response. Article II of the United Nations Genocide Convention defines a genocide as “a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part.” What we are witnessing in Palestine is definitively a genocide.

Of the aforementioned Ukrainian events, one concerning The Holodomor was itself referenced by NEIU as “​​a genocide that occurred in Ukraine from 1932-1933.”  There can and have been arguments made historically for how this occurrence in Ukraine was one of complex magnitude.

The Holodomor has a contested history, not dissimilar to the atrocities that have befallen the Palestinian people for years. Yet, there is an unwillingness to register the tragedy in Gaza as a genocide itself and this is a violence of language perpetuated by an apathetic, nervous administration. Why is the complicated history of Ukraine forgone to support the Ukrainian people if the same understanding is not extended to Palestinians?

This is not to say that there has been absolutely no response from the NEIU community, just that there has been disappointingly little from the Administration. There was a statement issued by an NEIU collective that discussed the ongoing catastrophe directly, tallied the death tolls for both sides at the time and called for an end to the violence that eventually garnered 247 signees.

There have also been several events organized by student groups like the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and NEIU Justice 4 Palestine that have provided space for grief and analysis of the ongoing atrocities. But why should students, with little to no resources or capacity, be forced to use those precious few moments of free time to organize such events, to educate the community? Shouldn’t that be a role of the University?

Additionally, an email was sent out by the Sociology department on Nov. 8, 2023, condemning the violence and positioning the Hamas attack within the context of the “75 years of Israeli white supremacy, including displacement, human rights violations, and systemic violence.”

Unfortunately, this correspondence was leaked to Fox News by an anonymous NEIU student and picked up as a story admonishing the attempts to provide support, encouragement and knowledge for their students in this time of heightened violence. This article, which was circulated widely online, resulted in the vicious doxxing of an NEIU professor. Again, showing their lack of tenacity in the face of pressures to remain impartial, and actively ignoring their role in defending their faculty; the office of Dr. Bell-Jordan issued a response that I will quote here: 

“Northeastern values community and diversity, and as an educational institution, we have a responsibility and commitment to allow our community to express their opinions under the First Amendment, even when we may not agree with what is being said. We must also remember that no single perspective represents the views of the entire University.

Rather than stand up and defend their faculty, those who work tirelessly and for what is undoubtedly too little wages; NEIU administration immediately (literally the same day as the Fox piece) separated themselves from the issue and their employees, entirely. 

Again, I ask, why is this the case? 

As I have said already, for some, this is a terribly complex issue, with history that goes back decades, and campaigns of propaganda that have accompanied and obfuscated understanding the whole way. Though to many, this is a cut and dry case of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Regardless, the Administration is apparently incapable of forming responses longer than a Tweet.

In a massively short history of this country and its relationship to imperialism/colonialism as a whole; America was erected on the ashes of a genocided Indigenous people. This genocide was followed by Atlantic chattel slavery. On the backs of these laborers and this history, America established its ideologies, industry and exploitative hierarchies of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Everything else has grown from there, and to try and divorce ourselves from these facts perpetuates the modes of thought and action that got us here.

So, when we are told what to believe from the major news outlets, political officials, or even the institutions we seek education from, we must struggle against simplistic readings of the situation, because our country does not have a simple history. The core tenets of American “democracy” are racism, sexism, and capitalistic homogeneity. We cannot expect America or any mouthpiece they don to be the end-all-be-all of human development and social understanding.

NEIU, like all colleges, universities, places of education should serve the purpose of facilitating the growth and development of their students: intellectually, socially, politically. They should teach us how to understand the truth, to negate the propaganda, and to understand when something is more complicated than Israel=Good/Palestine=Bad, or vice versa. But they have yet to provide this service to their students; rather they remain silent, reinforcing the confusion.

What isn’t complex is condemning the decades-long slaughter and colonization of innocent Palestinians. What is simple to understand as horrific is the bombing of hospitals and universities under the guise of “Hamas.” What doesn’t make sense is defending the Israeli state as they force every last Palestinian in Gaza to Rafah or Khan Younis as a “safe haven” before bombarding them mercilessly. 

If we have no example for us set by the power structures we find ourselves within, we must come together and form an understanding collectively. NEIU Administration may be the determining force behind what information is disseminated to us, but THEY ARE NOT THE VOICE OF NEIU. We, the students, faculty and staff are NEIU. We cannot take the apathetic declarations of our Administrators as the only way forward. 

NEIU is not the only group guilty of this indifference, clearly, but they dictate our direct community, and in turn the mental and physical well-being of those who make it up. 

This is a call for the entire NEIU community to think harder and read deeper into the global catastrophes that persist right now and have for so long. Not just Palestine; Sudan, Yemen, Syria, the Congo, South America, the exploited laborers in our own country, and every other instance of imperialist/colonialist harm. There are endless struggles being waged around the world and we must keep them in our minds and in our hearts. We must try to connect with the spirit of this fight and do all we can to ensure they are not forgotten, that these lives and people, their homes, ancestral heritage have not been lost in vain. There is no hope in a government or institution that will not advocate for the most exploited, marginalized, violated communities of the world. 

I’m not advocating for a disruptive, collective revolution (I absolutely am) but we must do something.

But, I will ask again: NEIU Administration, why are you letting the voices of the suffering go unheard, and why are you letting your community go without direction?

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  • B

    BobApr 11, 2024 at 5:58 pm

    There is no surprise that NEIU will not take a stand on grave issues.

    There is this University- somewhere that lied about the neighborhood next to it be “blighted.” This University used eminant domain to steal the land to make dorms it did not need, and kicked out it’s good neighbors.
    Then they put the dorms somewhere else, and the once living neighborhood IS blighted because the Univeristy KILLED it and has done NOTHING to return it to the people it stole it from and is doing NOTHING with it. NEIU did not speak up when this University did this dispicable thing. Yeah, NEIU is that University. Teachers, students and alumni voiced their disgust but the Univeristy just ignored it all. You expect NEIU to take a stand on killing? It can’t even be a good neighbor to the people next door.

  • Y

    YosefMar 7, 2024 at 2:41 am

    As an alumnus of NEIU (class 2009), I am shocked at this opinion piece. The author seems to lack both knowledge of history and an understanding of the grave crimes against humanity committed by Hamas on October 7th.

    What is interesting is that I have not seen such outrage from the editor on the other events happening in the Middle East, like the 300,000 slaughtered in Yemen.

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