Anti-Israel Students at Connecticut College ‘Occupy’ Office of School President in Protest Over Investigation of Mock Eviction Notices
by Lea Speyer
A group of anti-Israel students at Connecticut College is “occupying” the office of the school’s president in protest over an investigation into mock eviction notices they posted across campus accusing the Jewish state of a series of crimes.
An alumnus who asked to remain anonymous due to his tracking of anti-Israel activity at his alma mater told The Algemeiner, “This is a group of students who put up mock eviction notices that were factually challenged. It was done during finals and some students were alarmed by their tactics.”
As The Algemeiner reported, students returning to their dorms last Monday encountered fake eviction notices put up by Conn Students in Solidarity with Palestine (CSSP). “Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes is RACIST, is part of a project of ETHNIC CLEANSING and COLONIZATION, and is ILLEGAL,” part of the notice stated.
In response to the notices, Connecticut College Interim Dean of Equity and Inclusion David Canton sent out a campus-wide email, stating, “Seeing these posters in residential common areas, particularly this close to final exams, has been disturbing to our students. I am writing to let you know that my office is carrying out an investigation of the incident.”
The anti-Israel student organization pulled a similar stunt last semester, when its members plastered posters across campus stating, “Taglit-Birthright is settler colonialism.” The poster campaign is a tactic that has been frequently used by anti-Israel groups on American college campuses to intimidate Jewish and pro-Israel students.
“I gather some students filed a bias complaint and only because of Canton’s email did some students and faculty learn of the notices and the investigation,” the anonymous source said. “This led to a strong reaction from CSSP and I guess they don’t like the notion that what they did is being taken as a bias complaint. They also didn’t like that Canton sent out a mass email to the entire campus, when I suppose other bias incidents don’t get mass emails.”
The students staging the sit-in , which began on Thursday afternoon, have organized themselves into the Occupy Fanning movement, taking their name from the building — Fanning Hall — that houses the president’s office. Originally, the sit-in was organized by CSSP, which publicized it on its Facebook page, but the post has since been deleted.
According to a statement issued by the group, “We initially entered the office to inquire about the differential treatment of alleged bias incidents on campus, particularly why some bias incidents warrant all-campus communications and administrative actions while others do not.”
However, the group has now widened its grievances against the school, specifically accusing Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron of cultivating “an environment of control, surveillance, job exploitation, and repression that inhibits the work of the College…Join our coalition against administrative incompetence!”
“They have a blog up offering a list of demands and, in this kind of absurd ‘Wikileaks’ and small-potatoes way, are putting up posts that make the administration look bad,” the source told The Algemeiner. “The whole thing is riddled with irony. I don’t think the students see themselves as antisemitic, but while they say they have sympathy for minority groups, there is a wide lack of concern when it comes to Jews.”
The student protest, according to the source, is being carried out in the name of free speech. However, according to his own careful tracking of anti-Israel student activity, historically, whenever “anything bad is written about them [anti-Israel student groups at Connecticut College], they delete the comments. They moderate them to remove any negativity. Free speech is clearly not absolute.”
According to the source, faculty at Connecticut College “are alarmed by the eviction notices, because they are historical propaganda and demonstrate a group that opposes the existence of the state of Israel.”
However, he said, not all faculty members are standing in opposition to the Occupy Fanning movement. “The faculty adviser to CSSP, Eileen Kane, has not backed down, arguing that the eviction notices are legitimate criticism to certain Israeli actions. Certain faculty members have even liked the Occupy Fanning Facebook page,” he said.
“In my view, the administration only has itself to blame because, based on previous incidents, they’ve coddled these people. It’s not surprising students have become emboldened,” he said. “Connecticut College administrators are sending out conciliatory messages and are right now in full damage-control mode.”
Pamela Dumas Serfes, vice president for communications at Connecticut College, declined to comment on the situation when reached by The Algemeiner.