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campus administration

Jewish Voice for Peace Indiana member advocates for a vote of no confidence against Whitten, Shrivastav

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A member of Jewish Voice for Peace Indiana’s coordinating committee called for a vote of no confidence against IU President Pamela Whitten and Provost Rahul Shrivastav in response to alleged repression of Pro-Palestinian voices during “Windows on Palestinian Life: Meeting Palestinians” on Feb. 4. 

The event was held in the Unitarian Universalist Chruch of Bloomington. Dan Segal, the coordinating committee member, also called for a censure of the university from the American Association of University Professors.  

In December, IU suspended political science professor Abdulkader Sinno from teaching until the fall 2024 semester for violating university policy when incorrectly filling out a room reservation for the Palestinian Solidarity Committee. That same month, IU canceled Palestinian abstract painter Samia Halaby’s exhibit and Instagram posts, where she frequently advocates for Palestinian freedom and a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, due to security and safety concerns. 

Jewish Voice for Peace Indiana said in a statement that members of the IU administration responsible for these actions must be held accountable through faculty and other governance bodies at IU. 

Bryce Greene, co-founder of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee at IU, said the organization supports Segal’s calls for a vote of no confidence and censure. The PSC, he said, has very little confidence in IU’s ability to protect free speech and students’ safety, or embody and promote social justice.  

During the event on Feb. 4, speakers discussed what people in the U.S. can do regarding the Israel-Hamas war, what Palestinians want Americans to know and historical context related to the Israel-Hamas war. 

The event featured several speakers including Segal, an professor emeritus at Pitzer College; David McDonald, an IU professor of folklore and ethnomusicology; and Greene and Aidan Khamis, leaders of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee at IU.  

Greene discussed students’ role in Palestinian justice.  

“We help shape the minds of the people that are going to be shaping the future,” Greene said. 

Beverly Stoeltje, chair of Citizens for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel, said she was inspired to help put on the event to inform the greater Bloomington community.  

“It seemed to me that we really needed to have an educational event to bring about more humanization of Palestinians in this terrible, terrible moment,” Stoeltje said. 

The CJPPI co-sponsored the event with the Bloomington Peace Action Coalition and the Unitarian Universalist Church. 

The event was recorded and posted online for those who couldn’t attend, and Stoeltje hopes there will be further events like “Windows on Palestinian Life.” 

“Other people can organize it in their churches in their organizations that they belong to,” Stoeltje said. "We should take a lead from the students.” 

Faiza Maidi, a Bloomington resident, said she was inspired to speak spontaneously at the event because as a Muslim, she believes it is people’s duty to speak up for the oppressed. Maidi said the biggest driving factor for her speech was watching Palestinian parents and children dying due to the war. 

“I feel like it is all of our responsibility to speak up about it in any safe place that we can,” Maidi said.  

Hemayatullah Shahrani, an IU alumus and Bloomington resident, said he was motivated to attend the event because it is painful to see the violence of the war and not be able to do anything about it. 

“It really helps to be able to know there are other people out there who know what's going on, and you can kind of hear them say the things that you're feeling and it kind of soothes things to what little extent that it can,” Shahrani said. 

Despite the attendees' various backgrounds, Shahrani said they were all brought together by the principles of justice, compassion, freedom and peace. Getting to interact with people like that, he said, is wonderful. 

“The more people who have knowledge about what's going on, I think then there's a possibility of trying to make change or bring about positive change,” Shahrani said. “And that's what I hope will happen is an increase in grassroots understanding and knowledge and hopefully, action.” 

When asked for comment over Segal’s calls for a vote of no confidence and censure of the university, IU Executive Director of Media Relations Mark Bode, referred to Provost Rahul Shrivastav’s Jan. 16 address at a Bloomington Faculty Council meeting and the university’s previous statements. 

At the meeting, Shrivastav affirmed IU’s commitment to Palestinian, Arab and Muslim community members. He said that Halaby’s exhibition could be a “potential lightning rod” that could become a controversial event and threaten the safety of the IU community. Shrivastav said he could not comment on specific personnel matters, but decisions are made independent from outside pressure. The transcript and minutes from the meeting can be accessed online.

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