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Organizations hold ‘Anti-War Teach In’ before Baker Institute gala

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Multiple Rice and Houston organizations led an “Anti-War Teach In” event in the PCF 1 graduate student commons Oct. 24. The event was organized in response to the Baker Institute’s 30th anniversary gala. 

Cali Liu / Thresher

By Sarah Knowlton     11/1/23 12:31am

Multiple Rice and Houston organizations led an “Anti-War Teach In” event in the PCF 1 graduate student commons Oct. 24. The event was organized in response to the Baker Institute’s 30th anniversary gala, which hosted former secretaries of state Hillary Clinton, James Baker and Henry Kissinger.

In a Sept. 29 Instagram post announcing the teach-in, Rice Students for Justice in Palestine called Kissinger, Clinton and Baker “architects of war and imperialism.”

Graduate student co-organizers Erica Augenstein and Zainab Abdali said that they were inspired to host the teach-in to discuss the historical context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the roles that Clinton, Baker and Kissinger have played in global affairs.



“We definitely wanted to not let this just go by as historians and scholars of anti-colonial literature,” Augenstein said. “With the aggression in Gaza, the legacies of people like Kissinger became so obviously clear and the dangers of not countering these types of ideas became present and urgent.”

The teach-in was a collaboration between Rice Students for Justice in Palestine, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Palestinian Youth Movement, the Houston Democratic Socialists of America, the Rice Revolutionary Marxist Students and the Rice Asian Diasporic and Asian American Research Collective.

The event opened with remarks from Rice history professor G. Daniel Cohen and University of Houston Arab history professor Abdel Razzaq Takriti, who provided historical background on the relationship between Israel and Palestine. 

History professor Laura Correa Ochoa also spoke on the parallels between Latin American independence movements and the current situation in Palestine, as well as the impact that Kissinger in particular has had on Latin America.

“I have deep knowledge about the role of Kissinger and the U.S. in Latin America,” Ochoa said. “Many countries in Latin America have very deep roots in expressing their solidarity with the struggles of Palestinians. There is a longer historical lens to understand what’s happening.” 

UH undergraduate student Carlos Alvariño then spoke on United States intervention in Latin American politics, and an undergraduate student speaker from the Rice Revolutionary Marxist Students addressed the role that universities play in U.S. imperialism. Graduate student Karen Siu drew comparisons between the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American military intervention in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. 

The event concluded with a presentation from Rice alumnus and Rice SJP alumni supporter Anna Rajagopal ’23 and UH alumnus Aliya Khawaja ’21 on similarities between Hindutva — the desire to establish an entirely Hindu society in India — and Zionism.

Rice SJP member Matti Haacke attended both the teach-in and the “Protest the Genocide Gala” demonstration held Oct. 26 across Alumni Dr. from the Baker Institute gala.

“Rice needs more events like this where [students] bring up social discourse more,” Haacke, a Sid Richardson College junior, said. “Especially being in Texas, there’s a prime opportunity … With action items happening through SJP, I hope there can be more things like this.”

Graduate student Nina Nevill said that she attended the teach-in out of a desire to show her support for groups that advocate for Palestine.

“I think that any sort of group that stands against injustice and oppression, we need to be in support of,” Nevill said. “Solidarity amongst our community is really important, even if we’re not part of those groups.”

Vivek Venkatraman, a representative of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, discussed the concept of war and the reasons why governments resort to violence in his presentation. He told the Thresher in an interview after the teach-in that the PSL hoped to support student groups involved in advocacy for Palestine.

“We’re here in solidarity with groups that represent the Palestinian struggle [such as] SJP, other Palestinians, the Muslim Student Association and so on,” Venkatraman said. “Now is the moment where the working class people, the regular people, can fight back to have our voice heard, and events like this give us the space to have those conversations.”

Venkatraman also said that the gala’s invitation to Kissinger, Clinton and Baker — whom he described as “the architects of war” — shows that international issues have an impact on the Rice community.

“[Rice students] are amongst the brightest minds of our generation,” Venkatraman said. “We want the brightest minds of our generation to love peace, to love humanity, to want to build a better world, not to be influenced by these warmongers who want to funnel you into defense contractor jobs or consultant [jobs] for this weapons manufacturer or that one … We want the bright minds to be the bastions of hope and peace that will bring dignity to the working class people.” 



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