Over 80 Bowdoin College professors signed a letter of support for faculty and students protesting the war in Gaza, as campus demonstrators across the country face crackdowns by police and administrators.

The letter, which is now published in the The Bowdoin Orient, called for the college to uphold students’ right to free speech and to honor the results of a student referendum that calls for the college to take a stance against the conflict. The signing faculty, who hold roles in fields like history, Middle East and North African studies, and religion studies, condemned tactics like mass arrests and suspensions used at other schools to quell the protests.

The pending referendum, known as the “Bowdoin Solidarity Referendum,” calls on Bowdoin College to condemn scholasticide — the systemic killing and destruction of students, educators and institutions — in Gaza.

The referendum also calls on the college to disclose investments in arms manufacturers and commit to avoid investments in companies involved in Israel’s war on Gaza, as well as reinstate a social responsibility committee last active when the college divested from South Africa in 1987 because of apartheid.

The Bowdoin Students for Justice in Palestine launched a petition for the Bowdoin Student Government to hold a vote on the referendum, which the group drafted, a week ago. The group gained the required number of signatures needed on April 29, sending the call to action to the polls. Voting for enrolled Bowdoin College students closed Saturday. Results weren’t available Sunday afternoon.

The college declined to comment on the faculty letter and student efforts. It directed The Times Record to Bowdoin President Safa Zaki’s email sent to the academic community shortly after voting opened April 29. The email stated that disclosing and limiting investments would be harmful to the school’s endowment, which funds over half of operations and a majority of financial aid, according to Zaki.


“My belief, which I have shared previously, is that institutional statements often divide communities, harden divisions and interfere with the free exchange of ideas central to an academic community,” Zaki additionally wrote in the email.

The SJP said on its Instagram page that Zaki’s response to campus organizing was saddening and that the referendum does not call for divestment.

“President Zaki writes that institutional statements are divisive,” the group said in a post. “But her email is itself a statement — one that erroneously suggests that the interests of our community require us to remain complicit in an ongoing genocide.”

Olivia Kenney, a student in SJP, said she was disappointed by Zaki’s response and that the email misrepresented the demands of the referendum. Despite this, Kenney said that students are still uniting to demand that the school “stand on the right side of history.”

Another member from the group, Sam Cooper, said that they are hopeful for a more just future and that they feel called to act against the war because of their cultural background.

“As a Jewish student, it is my duty to stand up against the genocide in Gaza being carried out in my name,” Cooper said.

The push for student solidarity comes after more than 2,300 U.S. students have been arrested at universities for protests against the war in Gaza, which nears its sixth month, according to The Associated Press.

The Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights — a department within the United Nations — released figures on scholasticide in Gaza on April 18. The press release stated that within six months of military action in Gaza, over 5,800 students and educators had been killed and over 8,500 more had been injured with numbers growing each day.

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