Princeton profs joining hunger strikers say students are 'doing what they were told to do'

"Our students are putting their bodies on the line to try to affect change, and teaching them how to affect change is what we do as educators."

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY
A few Princeton faculty members joined with hunger striking students for a 24-hour solidarity fast to demand that university sever any cultural or economic ties with Israel and refrain from penalizing the students who have been protesting. As they spoke about their short term commitment to support the students' "indefinite" hunger strike, they said that the students were merely doing what they had been taught to do.

One associate professor said "the students have simply done what they were told to do," while a professor in the English department said "Our students are putting their bodies on the line to try to affect change, and teaching them how to affect change is what we do as educators."

The faculty spoke with pride about their students, who have been hunger striking since May 3. "They are eating nothing and drinking water very sparingly," a professor said, noting the health consequences of these actions. Like the students, he blamed the university for not doing enough to support their protest, like providing shelter for them outdoors. Presumably, all the students have campus housing. "This hunger strike is part of their life as students," he said, "and so we support them."

The professors all spoke up individually, discussing why it was so important that they join with the students who are putting their "bodies" out there to demand that they not face consequences for doing exactly that. Part of their reasoning is that the students were out there because they were "doing what they were told to do."

"The reason that I'm here today is because our students are doing what they were told to do, which is to exercise the democratic right to protest nonviolently and to take up civil disobedience. They have exhausted all the available and procedural channels of communication in the face of extreme injustice and oppression. They are not, or rather it is not lost on them that what they are seeing in Palestine is apartheid and occupation. It is a violation of international law and human rights," one associate professor from the history department said.

She said that the students do not want to be "complicit" with their "tuition dollars" and repeated "In recognition of that the students have simply done what they were told to do. And instead they have been met with canards. They have been met with mischaracterizations and they have been met with gaslighting."

"I'm here to support our students who have shown such courage in attempting to bring attention to the assault on the civilian population in Gaza. Our students are putting their bodies on the line to try to affect change, and teaching them how to affect change is what we do as educators," said an English teacher.

The students listed their demands, as delivered to the Board of Trustees, on May 8.

A professor of art and archaeology, and African American studies said he was supporting the students for "their moral courage, for the incredible strength and commitment to a better society. And they are doing that with their own bodies. They are doing that by going on hunger strike, one of the most powerful weapons available to humanity that believes in the use of non violence to affect change in our society and in our world. So the least that I can do, as a parent, and as a teacher, is to show up for them. Because I know that their causes, right? I know that the question they're asking is right, I know that they believe in it better tomorrow."

The faculty, standing with students, were likely emboldened by President Joe Biden's recent move to halt military aid to Israel, a sign that many leftist congress members have said indicates the protests are working.
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