Hunter Students and Faculty Find Ways to Navigate Tensions Amidst the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Demonstrators at an October 25 protest led by Hunter’s Palestinian Student Alliance.

Following the conflict between Israel and Palestine, there are a lot of opinions diverging. Tensions rising at Hunter College are causing some students to feel uncomfortable. Since President Ann Kirschner’s October 10 statement “in strong support” of Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez’s statement condemning “the activities of any internal organizations that are sponsoring rallies to celebrate or support Hamas’ cowardly actions,’” Hunter students and faculty have had a difficult time navigating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 Following this statement, a string of student-led protests have erupted on campus in support of Palestine and against what they feel is CUNY’s lack of support for the Palestinian people. 

“Hunter has yet to acknowledge that there is a genocide of Palestinians going on. They have yet to acknowledge the settler colonialism, violence, and apartheid that has been going on for over 75 years,” said a Hunter student who did not want to be named.

“In general, there has just been a lack of acknowledgment by the president and the chancellor, and what that does is create an uncomfortable environment for Zionist professors to be openly racist, as we saw with Professor Tamy Ben-Tor, who released a racist Palestinian and anti-indigenous video on her social media.”

Kirshcner seemingly addressed this incident in an October 27 statement saying, “We have heard from many students, faculty, and alumni in the last few days about social media content that is inconsistent with our values as a learning community. Simply put, there is no room for Islamophobia, antisemitism, or bigotry of any kind at Hunter College.”

Some students have reported that they felt uncomfortable with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being expressed in an opinionated way in their classes. Students said that there have been many incidents of class discussions where the conversation was leaning a little too pro Israel or Palestine. 

“I have seen a few professors and students expressing some very strong opinions, and it honestly makes me feel uneasy in these classes,” said Audrey Sutton, a Jewish student. In her class students were discussing a very strong stance against Israel. Sutton stated that this is not a matter of picking sides, but rather remaining respectful to both parties and the many lives that were lost. 

In order to sensitively deal with the conflict, some faculty have emphasized the importance of remaining neutral in a class setting. Annie Byrnes, a writing and reporting professor at Hunter College, expressed how she felt few subjects are as contentious as this one, and how she aims to stick to objective truths all students can agree upon. 

“It’s a lot but it’s important to focus on our conversations on what is going to mean the most to the students and not let it devolve into a bunch of bickering, we do enough of that on social media,” said Byrnes. She felt strongly that with the sensitivity of the subject it is best to avoid bringing it up in class discussions if possible.

Tasfia Nawar, a Muslim student, spoke on how she thinks in an educational institution it is very important to address issues while remaining respectful. 

“When we engage in these conversations to any capacity, we should be mindful of others and have an open dialogue. This dialogue should remain purposeful, educational, and not hateful,” said Nawar. 

As the Hunter community continues to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Nawar told The Athenian that it is important for faculty and staff to remain aware of those around them and approach the situation with care. 

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