As students at Stanford University reach the two-week mark of a sit-in on campus calling for the university to condemn Israel’s siege on Gaza and further support Palestinian students, they’re showing no signs of stopping.
The students, who have been camping out in Stanford’s White Plaza since Oct. 20, are also demanding that the university provide resources for Palestinian students and commit to the boycott, divestment and sanction movement. They’re also calling for the university to endorse an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, form a committee to “correct the directives, faculty, and research initiatives contributing to subjugation of Palestinian people” and call for Israel and Egypt to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.
A Stanford spokesperson did not return a request for comment.
Hana Spahia, a student at Stanford who has been involved with the sit-in, told this publication that the demonstration started as an “informal effort” with 13 people, but numbers grew as the news spread by word of mouth and flier campaigns. She said over 100 people participate during various times of the day, but a core group of 20 students are present at any given time.
“On Stanford’s campus, like many across the country, students who are speaking out against Israel’s war crimes — particularly Palestinian and Muslim students — have been physically attacked, followed, and have received threatening messages including death threats,” the students’ press release states. “While the University has made two public statements on the issue including one that condemned the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel, they have failed to publicly address and condemn the active genocide having clear and significant impact on the student body.”
On the other hand, over 2,000 Stanford alumni and affiliates signed an open letter criticizing university leaders for not explicitly condemning antisemitism in the various statements they have issued on the matter.
Stanford president Richard Saller and provost Jenny Martinez said in an Oct. 19 statement — before the sit-in — that the school’s Department of Public Safety is working to ensure the campus’s safety and is “investigating several incidents.”
“We ask all to observe the responsibilities that go along with the exercise of their First Amendment rights, including respect for others and the boundaries of threats and harassment. There is no place for hate and physical violence on this campus,” the statement reads.
Spahia said university leaders met with students involved with the sit-in on Oct. 26 to discuss their demands, but administrators said it would be difficult to address most of them except the demand to provide resources for Palestinian students. A student who preferred to remain anonymous told this publication that there are around three to four Palestinian students at the university.
“There was a preliminary meeting regarding our second demand, but the university has not shown interest in fulfilling the needs of Palestinian, Arab and Muslim students at this time,” Spahia said.
The students involved with the sit-in are calling for the university to provide counseling and academic accommodations for students who are being affected by the events in Gaza and access to free legal assistance for students facing harassment and prejudice.
They’re also asking the university to issue “timely” alerts for hate speech and harassment for Palestinian, Palestinian diaspora, Arab, and Muslim students, and a round trip covered by the university after the signing of a ceasefire for students to visit their family and friends in affected areas to grieve.
The students have also launched a petition calling for community support for their demands, which according to their instagram has over 2,000 signatures as of Oct. 31.
Stanford isn’t the only school facing controversy over their statements and stances on the conflict — a group of University of California faculty criticized administrators’ original statement after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, encouraging them to “uplift the Palestinian freedom struggle and to stand against Israel’s war crimes.” But a member of the UC Board of Regents wrote that the faculty group’s statement was full of “falsehoods, inaccuracies, and antisemitic innuendos,” and “seeks to legitimize and defend the horrific savagery of the Hamas massacre of October 7.”
Spahia said students drew inspiration from Stanford alumni who protested on campus against South African apartheid and participated in what they believe to be the longest sit-in in the school’s history — 52 days.
“Regardless, our goal is not to beat the record but to have our demands met, and we are willing to stay as long as it takes,” she said.