Eight Iowa lawmakers will not attend a Grinnell College event this month due to the college's response to pro-Palestine protests on campus. (Photo via Google Earth)
Eight Iowa lawmakers have rejected an invitation from Grinnell College, citing their disagreement with the college’s response to pro-Palestine protests on campus.
In a Nov. 13 letter signed by State Representatives Barb Kniff McCulla, Austin Harris, Dean Fisher, Jon Dunwell, Helena Hayes and Hans Wilz and Senators Ken Rozenboom and Cherielynn Westrich, the group said they will not attend a Nov. 28 dinner at the college. They said their absence is intended to express their disappointment in a statement made by the college in the wake of a walk-out led by students to show support for Palestine and condemn Israel’s actions in the Israel-Gaza conflict.
Grinnell College was unable to provide comment Wednesday.
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Grinnell students have held multiple protests in the month since fighting began, including a “die-in” at a Nov. 11 alumni dinner. The Students for Justice in Palestine at Grinnell College have called for President Anne Harris and the university to announce support for a ceasefire, but according to a social media post from the group, Harris said in an email that she can’t and won’t make public statements that will “divide the community.”
The letter said the lawmakers were alarmed at protests occurring at universities across the U.S., and said they were disappointed to see a similar walk-out at Grinnell College.
A campus-wide message from Harris, posted Nov. 1, called for the campus community to stay informed about the conflict, look out for each other, reach out for support when needed, be aware of discrimination and report harassment when necessary.
“We are here, now, at Grinnell College – all of us doing the very best we can to comprehend world events and to contribute to relief from suffering, and to the hope for peace,” Harris said in the statement. “That vital work begins among us and radiates outwards.”
The legislators were concerned with another part of the message, which said instances of antisemitic and Islamophobic harassment are on the rise on college campuses, and the college denounces antisemitism and Islamophobia. The lawmakers said that statement equates the two forms of discrimination.
While the students were exercising their First Amendment right to free speech and assembly, the letter said, the representatives were hopeful that the college administration would respond with “truth instead of tepid, middle-of-the-road platitudes.”
“That message fell far short of the clear and unmistakable moral clarity needed in this moment,” the letter said. “Just as there was no moral equivalence during the Holocaust, there is no moral equivalence to the genocidal attacks on October 7, 2023.”
Pro-Palestine protests have also been held on the University of Iowa campus where school administration have issued no statements on the conflict.
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