As SJP protest efforts continue, “I Heart UD Giving Day” comes under scrutiny


Managing News Editor

Staff Reporter

As students across the country demand accountability from their universities regarding the war in Gaza, the University of Delaware’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) remains dedicated to its fight for Palestinian solidarity on campus.

SJP’s efforts included a protest on campus last week in which participants marched from Trabant University Center to Graham Hall, home to the Biden School of Public Policy and Administration.

Some students and community members remained on the lawn of Graham Hall until around 11 p.m. that night, and then returned for the next two days as part of efforts to encourage university divestment from companies that supply the Israeli military. During this time, protesters would lie on the ground in order to represent the bodies of dead Palestinians.

Now, a back-and-forth dialogue between university President Dennis Assanis  and SJP is at the center of the localized conversation on the Israel-Hamas war and the deaths of over 34,000 Palestinians.

SJP received a letter from Assanis and released it on Instagram. The letter stated José-Luis Riera, vice president of student life, and Fatimah Conley, vice president of institutional equity, would meet with SJP officers.

In SJP’s response letter, which was summarized and also released on Instagram, it was agreed that they would meet with Riera and Conley. 

However, it went on to state that while members of SJP “respect and deeply appreciate these administrators, [they] reject the idea of sending ‘the BIPOC’ administrators to ‘deal’ with [them],” going on to explain that it reduces them to a racial problem and not a human problem.

In the university’s letter, Assanis claimed the university “has no direct investment” in any of the companies SJP first referenced in its demands for the university to divest from. SJP’s response pointed out that the university’s 2021-22 tax records showed grants to five companies listed in the organization’s initial demands.

One of those companies is ATC Manufacturing, a supplier to Boeing. Tax records from 2021-22 show a university cash grant to the company of just over $156,000. It is unclear whether the university currently has ties to ATC or other companies that SJP listed.

Just this week, Portland State University halted donations from Boeing due to its ties to Israel amidst student demands.

SJP’s response also reiterated a request for a temporary spot on the President’s Student Advisory Council (PSAC), though Assanis – while encouraging students to apply for the next cycle – maintained that the only appointed spots are reserved for the presidents of the Student Government Association (SGA) and the Graduate Student Government (GSA).

The group ended its written response with listed demands, the signatures of various groups and university members and a re-emphasis on the joint frustration with the university’s lack of action.

“We have been willing to go through the proper channels, and asking us to continue to do so shows there is no urgency on your part,” the end of the response read. “There is a genocide going on, President Assanis. 

“Every day we wait, more lives are lost. By prioritizing education, awareness, and discussions of the occupation of Palestine and the plight of the Palestinian people, we are meeting you halfway, but you are failing to meet us halfway in making sure that the necessary institutional change occurs.”

Protesters march across campus last week in support of Palestine and with demands for the university to support a ceasefire. Ethan Grandin/THE REVIEW

Assanis sent the university community a statement Wednesday regarding protests across the country, advising students to remain peaceful and avoid setting up tents, or else they may be subject to “disciplinary actions including suspension or expulsion from the University.”

Boycott of “I Heart UD Giving Day”

“I Heart UD Giving Day” is the university’s annual day of promotional fundraising, in which alumni, faculty, staff and family members of students are encouraged to donate to different projects, departments and RSOs at the university. As of the end of Wednesday, more than $830,000 was raised.

Pushback against the fundraising event came from SJP, state Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton and other local groups. A link for alumni to pledge to “say no to Giving Day” was released on social media platforms Monday. 

SJP, along with the university’s Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter, asked alumni to fill out the form and agree not to donate to the university on Wednesday and moving forward.

“Say no to university investments in weapons manufacturing, Israeli apartheid, and ecocide and the climate crisis,” a joint statement read. 

As of Wednesday night, there were more than 120 pledges. 

When asked for comment on the encouragement for alumni to boycott Giving Day, the university provided a statement to The Review describing the benefits of the day. This statement included no mention of SJP or their efforts to boycott the event.

“I Heart UD Giving Day is an annual opportunity for our students, faculty and staff to draw attention to the projects and areas of campus life that are closest to their hearts,” the statement read. 

The statement explained that previously, Giving Day funds have “strengthened existing student scholarship funds, benefited academic and athletic programs, provided students with safe housing, meals and access to technology, and created innumerable campus life benefits.”

It then thanked donors for their gifts, which “enhance the student experience and make the pathway to a UD education more accessible.”

Movement across the state

Wilson-Anton, a university alum, and others lobbied in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. In a post on X, Wilson-Anton said they asked U.S. House Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester “to oppose all future military funding to Israel [and] to stand with student protestors.”

The Delaware House of Representatives passed a resolution last week that calls for an “immediate and lasting ceasefire.” Wilson-Anton is the primary sponsor of the resolution that will now head to the Senate chamber.

Meanwhile, two pro-Palestinian protesters interrupted current Gov. John Carney’s announcement of his campaign to run for mayor of Wilmington on Monday.

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