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St. Paul, MN: Hamline University punishes students who oppose complicity with Gaza genocide

By Kim DeFranco

Members of Hamline University Students for Justice slam university for punishing students who oppose genocide in Palestine. | Fight Back! News/Kim DeFranco

St. Paul, MN – On May 16, Hamline University Students for Justice (HUSFJ) rallied outside of the Old Main administration building, announcing they would end their 20-day encampment for Palestine.

“It is an insult to the students, an insult to the faculty, an insult to the alumni, and an insult to everyone in the community to say that Hamline values their investment dollars over the martyred Palestinians in Gaza,” declared Charlie Rundquist, a 2024 graduate who received a conduct violation. “We have been demanding that Hamline sever its ties with Israel, but instead they severed their ties with students.”

After weeks of pressure, the administration failed to meet the students’ demands. Hamline interim President Dr. Kathleen Murray chose not to negotiate in good faith and instead punished the students with code of conduct violations.

Students began the encampment at the end of April, alongside an occupation of the Old Main building. Within days, the administration agreed to meet with the students and granted them amnesty from any conduct violations accumulated throughout their protest. With those items in hand, the students ended the building occupation but continued the encampment.

However, as each day passed, the administration insisted on the condition of the students ending their encampment in order to enter further negotiations. The students refused to take this new conditional offer, seeing it as a loss of leverage.

On May 8, students met with Dean of Students Patti Kersten regarding the demands for President Murray. Instead, Dean Kersten demanded the encampment and memorials set up at a recent community-wide vigil be taken down. The administration claimed that the encampment was disruptive for students who wanted to take graduation photos.

“The protests in no way disrupted graduation, ceremonies or celebrations,” the group said in a press release.

According to that press release, in a meeting with the students on May 13, Murray immediately read a pre-written statement, saying they were no longer willing to engage with the encampment or student organizers and that no negotiations would occur until the complete removal of the encampment.

That evening, at least ten students received notices of code of conduct violations in their emails.

After discussion among the HUSFJ members and a trusted faculty member, they decided to end the encampment. HUSFJ organized a rally and press conference to speak out on how they were disgusted with Hamline University, its interim president and other administrators, who would rather punish students who wanted the school to divest from Israel to help stop the Palestinian genocide. Students facing the conduct violations spoke out to expose Hamline’s contradictory values while being silent regarding the Palestinian genocide.

“It has been confirmed that our university does hold investments that fund the murder and displacement of Palestinians, and the university is more interested in condemning me for sleeping in a tent, putting up posters and dressing a statue than remedying a betrayal of its own values,” said June Gromis, a junior and HUSFJ member. “I will continue to fight for a Hamline that values and protects Palestinian lives as will we all.”

Lydia Meier, a 2024 graduate, told the crowd, “Since April 26, when we began our occupation demanding Hamline's divestment from companies involved in murdering Palestinians, Israel has murdered over 1200. Every day Hamline drags its feet is another day that innocent civilians die, children become orphans, families starve, and parents discover their babies under rubble.”

Clare Friar, a sophomore, told the crowd, “I believe it is my right, as a member of this institution and this community, to call for accountability, transparency, disclosure and divestment – and to call for it now.”

“Hamline has not weaponized the police against us; they have used their bureaucracy to silence us, force complacency, and make false promises,” explained another student, Ivy Evard. “They gave us back silence.”

HUSFJ stated that it remains committed to the goals of disclosure and divestment.

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