The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Op-Ed: Does DePaul Care About Its Palestinians?

As we are witnessing the revolution of college students around the country, I began to reminisce on my days as a student leader at DePaul who spent many years advocating against injustices. As a student, I served in many different roles, the biggest being vice president and president of SGA. Most importantly, I was a proud member of DePaul’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. 

Within my first month as vice president of SGA, I was doxed for my advocacy for Palestine. My social media pages, pictures and posts regarding Palestine were compiled and made public. Additionally, the page linked me to terrorism due to my high school’s Muslim Student Association(1).

Being elected president of SGA was a big accomplishment for myself and my community. I spent the entirety of my time at DePaul trying to advocate for Palestine and the safety of us Palestinians on campus. I felt that I was finally in a position to do something for my community. My predecessors warned me, however, that the DePaul community does not respect women of color who serve as SGA president, which I soon experienced myself.

I was elected in the spring of 2021. Our cabinet immediately began working to release a statement in support of DePaul’s Palestinian community in light of the recent attacks on Gaza and Sheikh Jarrah. Although DePaul prides itself on being a Vincentian institution, I faced extreme backlash. I received pressure from administration to “be careful” with my advocacy for Palestine. DePaul student Barbara Schiffer also published an article about me in the Times of Israel, further doxing me, which resulted in threats on social media(2). When this was reported to university administration, no action was taken to protect me or other Palestinian students, who were also being doxed and threatened.

Despite all this, I continued to bring my identity with me into every space I entered, despite the censorship that would come with that. During my quarterly check-in with the Vice President of Student Affairs, it was suggested that I advocate less for Palestine because, as SGA president, I “represent all students” and that I was being unfair to Israeli students. I was basically asked to abandon my identity throughout my presidency, and this was not the first time. In every check-in we had, my advocacy for Palestine was always brought up, whether directly or indirectly. However, to be Palestinian is not “controversial,”; it is the greatest honor of my life and I made sure everyone knew that, regardless of who it upset. 

Later in the school year, we signed on to a list of demands made by SJP, one of these demands being to make the university’s investment portfolio public. I received even more critiques about this action, this time from our SGA staff advisor. She expressed that she was getting many phone calls and emails as a result of this action and that we needed to be more careful until everything calmed down. Shortly after, I was cornered by the VP of student affairs at President Esteban’s retirement party, asking me to expose fellow SJP members for a protest they had on campus. The administrators who were supposed to support and protect me always made me uncomfortable and scared, all while telling the rest of the university how much they support students of color. 

I lived and breathed DePaul and our Vincentian mission as a student, as you can see from my campus involvement. Despite this extensive involvement and time I gave to this university, the care and compassion was never reciprocated. The needs of DePaul’s Palestinian students have continuously fallen on deaf ears. 

We are now seeing a historic encampment take place on our campus and it’s reminding me of everything Palestinians and allies at DePaul have been trying to do for years. Students have been watching our people get murdered through social media for the past seven months and are expected to go to classes as if life is normal. Our lives are not normal and we are not okay. DePaul won’t even recognize the ongoing human rights violations in Gaza and how it’s affecting students. We ask ourselves, “What must be done?” How about DePaul actually DOES something? We are done letting DePaul scare us into silence. I am extremely proud of our students in the encampments and I hope our administration knows they will not move until their demands are met. 

Until liberation,

Watfae Zayed

  1. The link to this website is not included out of concern for my own safety and to avoid giving website views for myself and other students that are doxxed. 
  2. The link to this article is not included out of concern for my own safety and to avoid giving website views for myself and other students that are doxxed.

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