Letter to the President: OICR Student Staff Statement on Palestine/Israel

Students from the Office of Cultural Identities and Resources urge President Elliott to call for a permanent ceasefire in Palestine and support student activism on campus.

This statement was delivered to President Michael Elliott on the evening of March 28, 2024 during a reception at the President’s house for the Office of Identity and Cultural Resources staff. Students from Amherst and the five colleges gathered outside of the President’s house in support while the statement was delivered inside by Victoria Thomas ’25, Logan Maniscalco ’24, Ashanti Adams ’24, Melanie Huq ’25, Ayo Eniola ’24, and Sasha Heywood ’25.

Dear President Elliott,

This statement is written by students and comes from the hearts of students, faculty, and staff alike who care deeply about Amherst College’s contribution toward the greater good. We are unsatisfied and troubled by the administrative response to the war in Palestine, as well as its response to people within our college community who have supported Palestinian freedom. As students primarily working within the Office of Identity and Cultural Resources (OICR) — the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC), Women’s and Gender Center (WGC), the Center for International Student Engagement (CISE), the Class and Access Resource Center (CARC), the Queer Resource Center (QRC), and the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life (RSL) — we are deeply saddened by the censorship happening within the resource centers and other departments and offices on campus.

As student employees of cultural resource centers, we believe our purpose to be supporting all causes of liberation in the face of oppression while offering spaces where complex discussions on and acknowledgements of these issues can occur. Instead, however, Amherst College has pressured students into staying silent, failed to support students who were targeted for their views, and continues to minimize the violence happening in Gaza and the experiences of Palestinian students on our campus. We have heard reports from students who have faced consequences for speaking out in support of Palestine, ranging from censorship to being forced off-campus out of the belief that their advocacy hid mental instability.

While our demands today are focused on the Amherst College community, Amherst does not stand alone. Our peers throughout the Five College Consortium have been fighting for months within their own institutions toward divestment, calls for an end to the violence, and allowance of free speech and debate. We support them in their advocacy, just as they are supporting us here today. President Elliott, by following through on these actions, we believe you can turn Amherst College into a leader for other institutions in Western Massachusetts and throughout our nation.

Thank you for inviting us here tonight as representatives of the OICR. We hope you can see the immense relevance of this statement to our positions and roles on campus. As students committed to making Amherst College a better place for all identities and perspectives, we ask the following of you and Amherst College’s administration:

First, following the efforts of Amherst for Palestine and Amherst College Jews for Ceasefire, we ask that you commit to investigating the college’s private investments and how they may directly or indirectly be offering financial support to the Israeli government and military.

Second, we ask that you immediately acknowledge and denounce the intimidation coming from the Title IX office, the Center for Counseling and Mental Health, and the OICR toward students exercising their right to free speech and peaceful protest. We also request you issue a statement to faculty and staff that ensures this kind of inappropriate correspondence will cease immediately and will not happen in the future.

Lastly, we ask and urge you to issue a public statement calling for a permanent ceasefire in Palestine/Israel. We students will not stand by while the college refuses to publicly denounce the immense violence and civilian death that has occurred since Oct 7 and decades before.

If you wish to speak directly to this statement today we ask that you address us and our supporters outside. These are not issues that only affect the OICR and our duties to the campus community, but also other Amherst student organizations and the larger Five College and Western Massachusetts community. We hope that you can see our actions today as a step toward Amherst College becoming a leading institution dedicated to justice.

To the professional staff of the OICR, we ask that you honor our commitment to bettering the resource centers and the student body and deeply consider the role of each individual space in a movement toward ending the war. We will continue to ask the OICR and Amherst administration to act on these demands and will continue encouraging conversation about and activism around war in Palestine/Israel on our campus and beyond. We are dedicated to seeing Amherst College do better, and hope you are as well.

Signed OICR student staff :

Victoria Thomas ’25 — MRC Program organizer

Melanie Huq ’25 — RSL program organizer

Logan Maniscalco ’24 — WGC Communications Organizer

Ayo Eniola ’24 — RSL program organizer

Jasmynh Stokes ’26 — CARC Program Organizer

Dory Farlessyost ’24 — CARC Program Organizer

Ris Paulino ’25 — MRC Center Organizer

Quincy Smith ’25 — OICR Student Staff and Black Student Union

Sasha Heywood ’25 — OICR Student Staff

Michelle Kha ’24 — CARC Program Organizer

Ashanti Adams ’24 — CARC Program Organizer

Hibiscus Zhang ’25 — WGC Program Organizer

Mica Nimkarn ’24 —  QRC Program Organizer

Suntali Donahue ’27 — WGC Program Organizer

Mackenzie Dunson ’25 — WGC Center Organizer

Dohyeon Kim ’26 — CISE Program Organizer

Venumi Gamage ’26 — CISE Program Organizer

Supported by:

Noa Costom ’26 — Amherst College Jews for Ceasefire

Vanessa Glass ’26 — Amherst College Jews for Ceasefire

Dorothy Nketia ’24 —African and Caribbean Student Union Dance Company, Out in STEM

Tyra Redwood ’25 — Black Student Union Black Queer Senior Chair

Nina Diaz ’26 — La Causa Co-Chair

Érica Ayala ’26 — La Causa Secretary

Valerie Rosario ’26 — Black Student Union Historian

Dania Hallak ’24 — Middle Eastern North African Association President

Cristy Kasbo ’25 — Middle Eastern North African Association Vice President

Kamil Mouehla ’26 — African and Caribbean Student Union

Julianne Woodward ’26 — Middle Eastern North African Association

Amherst College African and Caribbean Student Union

Amherst College Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine

Amherst College For Palestine

Amherst College Muslim Student Association