Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Foothill College's Student News Publication

The Foothill Script

Opinion: College Presidents Should Lead with Moral Clarity, Setting the Tone for Campus Culture

Library+Quad%3B+rows+of+childrens+clothes+hung+on+the+clotheslines+under+a+clear+blue+sky.+Poems+on+A-line+frame+on+the+inside+of+the+quad.+A+student+reads+one+of+the+poems.+The+closest+poem+reads%2C+We+teach+life%2C+Sir.
Fatima Jinnah
Library Quad; rows of children’s clothes hung on the clotheslines under a clear blue sky. Poems on A-line frame on the inside of the quad. A student reads one of the poems. The closest poem reads, “We teach life, Sir.”

Friday afternoon, a group of faculty and staff gathered under the shade of a large Oak tree in prayer, in remembrance, and in community as they shared how they’ve coped balancing work and personal life while watching the genocidal violence Israel is committing against the Palestinian people. While this ethnic cleansing has transpired over the last 76 years, the citizen journalists documenting the violence, and our ability to see it in real time, is relatively new.

Because many in the campus community have been bearing witness to these atrocities in abject horror, we’ve asked our President, Dr. Kristina Whalen, to formally make a statement recognizing the humanity of the Palestinian people and create a space to talk about what is happening. 

She refused, meekly saying she doesn’t think she should make statements on “geopolitical issues” despite precedent from previous Foothill College Presidents and Chancellors making such statements. She’s gone on to say she doubts there is “broad support” for a statement in recognition of Palestinian suffering. 

With the Administration’s clear reluctance to condemn the loss of Palestinian civilian life, the onus of educating the campus fell on faculty and staff. The same individuals who gathered for the healing circle, individually, and collectively, created educational opportunities for those interested in learning more about Palestine. These individuals led reading groups, paid for teach-ins, created art installations, organized Palestinian academics, artists, and authors to educate the campus on the history of Palestine. With decades of manufactured consent through our media, combined with the racialization of Muslims and Palestinians, many on campus did not have an understanding that Palestinians are living in an apartheid state. Thus, these events served a dual purpose of humanizing the Palestinian people.

The faculty and staff who organized events did so under the backdrop of outright hostility, repression, and silence of the President. The President’s silence was palpable enough that faculty, staff, and students alike felt silenced. Students were so afraid to speak about the genocidal war that Israel is waging on the people of Palestine that they wrote “Demands” to the President and the Executive Cabinet anonymously. They worried about the doxing they’ve seen friends experience. They didn’t want to jeopardize their transfer opportunities and careers before those careers had even begun.

Recently, notable scholar Raz Segal, an Israeli Jewish historian who was an Associate Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies and Endowed Professor in the Study of Modern Genocide at Stockton University, recently lost a job offer at the University of Minnesota for saying Israel is committing genocide. According to DemocracyNow!, “Segal was set to lead the university’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, but after two board members quit in opposition to Segal’s selection and a smear campaign led by the pro-Israel group Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), the school revoked the offer.” In the interview with Amy Goodman, Segal says he has been “targeted because of my identity as a Jew who refuses the narrowing down of Jewish identity to Zionism.” For this reason, I empathize with what I imagine are Dr. Whalen fears. She has, like we all have, seen the Zionists and the political right destroy the careers of college presidents and she’s been threatened herself by angry Zionists who attended the Academic Senate meeting winter quarter.

As scary as the consequences for speaking up can be, this is the time when we need strong and courageous leadership. This is the time to be brave and not cower to threats that undermine academic freedom, free speech, and opportunities for critical thinking. This is the time to “meet the moment” and be “unapologetically anti-racist,” motos we used after the murder of George Floyd. If we can’t make space to acknowledge and discuss the suffering of Palestinians, how are we creating a welcoming environment for them on our campus?

We need action from our President and the Administration, not more bureaucracy.

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  • N

    Natalie Latteri
    Jul 13, 2024 at 11:50 am

    As an educator specializing in part in antisemitism, it is heartbreaking and greatly troubling to see antisemitic publications promoted and published by the Foothill Script. This opinion piece includes reference to “angry Zionists” and paints an image of a litigating Jewish boogeyman holding our president and college and university presidents nationwide hostage, fearful of speaking out to some presupposed “moral clarity.”

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    Natalie Latteri
    Jul 11, 2024 at 2:44 am

    This Op-Ed panders in antisemitic tropes and suggests that any opposition or differing opinion to the author’s must somehow be informed by fear. What about the fears of members of the campus community who have been maligned and doxed for holding a different opinion? Moreover, who are the “angry Zionists” written about? What if “angry Zionists” were replaced with “angry Jihadist”? Would this be published?

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    Natalie Latteri
    Jul 10, 2024 at 6:05 am

    It is very odd that the author of this piece mentions a fear of doxing when they have spread the names and email addresses to students in the Social Justice club of Academic Senators who were opposed to the Resolution they helped author, or that they have addressed the joint District Academic Senate, including students, to point out (dox?) the disciplines and individual classes where they think apartheid and genocide should be mentioned. This is not their role and they have overstepped, actually bringing pro-Hamas rhetoric to campus. This is not because the President lacks moral clarity. President Whalen has condemned the loss of civilian life in Palestine and asked for Israeli (and US, and other) hostages to be released from their Hamas captors.

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    Janie G
    Jul 2, 2024 at 9:33 pm

    As a new mother, witnessing Palestinian suffering and learning of their decades of oppression an apartheid at the hands of the Israeli government, I have been so heavily impacted with sadness and helplessness. As an employee of Foothill, I am so grateful for Fatima and the other faculty and staff who have stepped in where our administration has failed. I sincerely feel the depression I have endured watching a genocide unfold could have prevented me from doing my job and being the mother my daughter needs if it weren’t for the spaces faculty and staff have created—without the support of administration—for people to learn about and support the people of Palestine and those who care for them.

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