Vanderbilt University expels anti-Zionists who occupied administrative building

The group Divest Coalition amassed inside Kirkland Hall and demanded the school pass legislation to allow the student government to boycott Israel.

By Dion J. Pierre, The Algemeiner

Vanderbilt University in Tennessee has suspended and expelled several anti-Zionist students who participated in occupying an administrative building last month, according a statement issued by school provost C. Cybele Raver on Friday.

On March 26, the group “Divest Coalition” amassed inside Kirkland Hall, where its members clamored for administrators to reverse its cancellation of a referendum that, if passed, would have allowed the Vanderbilt Student Government to boycott companies linked to Israel.

At the time, Vanderbilt University commented on the matter to The Vanderbilt Hustler, explaining that several students “assaulted a Community Service Officer to gain entrance” into Kirkland Hall and “pushed” officials who suggested having a meeting to discuss their concerns. The school paper also reported other disturbing conduct that took place inside the building, including that students relieved themselves in plastic bottles and a young woman removed a sanitary product from her undergarments.

“After a thorough review of the incident, including examination of evidence and interviews with students, the Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity staff issued a range of findings and sanctions that took the individual circumstances of each student’s conduct into account,” Raver explained. “The sanctions included disciplinary probation as well as suspension and expulsion. Students have ten days to appeal their case to the university’s Appellate Review Board, a body consisting of faculty and students.”

She added, “The gravity of this situation and these outcomes weighs heavily on those of us charged with carrying out our responsibility as leaders; we fully understand that student choices and decisions can lead to seriously and costly consequences.”

The day of the occupation of Kirkland Hall saw bitter exchanges of words between the students and campus officials. Video footage of their demonstration shows them verbally abusing a Black officer, whom they accused of betraying his racial identity. “Shame on you!” they shouted at him. Someone else said, “You are Black in America, and you’re not standing with the marginalized people of the world. What does that make you?” Another student told the officer that he should take their side because America is committing a genocide of black Americans, insinuating that Israel is committing a genocide of Palestinians.

At least 16 students in total have been suspended from school over the incident, a disciplinary sanction which proscribes being on campus — in residence halls or class — for any reason. Failure to comply with the punishment may result in being trespassed and arrested. However, students appealing their punishments can still attend class for ten days.

The expulsion of the protesters comes amid a crackdown on prohibited conduct on college campuses, which has exploded since Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7. On Friday, Columbia University president Minouche Shafik confirmed that up to six student members of an anti-Zionist organization that invited a terrorist to campus have been suspended. According to The Columbia Spectator, their scholarships have been cancelled and they are evicted from campus housing.

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The outcome of some building occupations is still unclear, however. Dozens of anti-Zionist students at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts have been occupying an administrative building for over a week in an attempt to force administrators to accede to demands calling for the school’s endowment to be divested of holdings in companies they have deemed as “weapons manufacturers and war profiteer” linked to Israel’s military campaign against Hamas.

As of this writing, they remain there. Smith College has not responded to The Algemeiner‘s request for comment about the occupation. On Tuesday, the school told Inside Higher Ed that no student has been arrested despite that they “are allegedly in violation of several elements of the Student Code of Conduct, including unauthorized entry or use of a building, abuse of property, and disruption of college activities.”