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Rice SJP hosts protest in response to S.RES 02 tabling

sjp-protest-prayag-gordy-web
Rice SJP hosted a protest across the street from the Allen Center on April 12 in response to the cancellation of S.RES 02. Prayag Gordy / Thresher

By James Cancelarich     4/16/24 11:08pm

Rice Students for Justice in Palestine staged a  walkout and protest in response to the tabling of S.RES 02, a resolution that proposed a divestment of student funds to Israel-aligned companies, outside the Allen Center, April 12. The protest occurred during Owl Days, when prospective students were touring the campus.

“We hope that Rice can respect our academic freedoms, respect our freedom of speech and allow us to simply vote on a resolution without fearmongering the voting members, without having to block it because of frivolous claims, so we hope [this protest] builds pressure on administration,” Rice SJP organizer Matti Haacke said.

Following recommendations from the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement, S.RES 02 proposed a divestment of Student Association-disbursed funds from Israel-aligned companies. The resolution was never voted on — it was tabled indefinitely by the Office of Access, Equity and Equal Opportunity following a discrimination complaint. 



During the protest, students voiced their support for Palestinians and denounced Rice for tabling S.RES 02 and the threats of disciplinary charges for S.A. members who do not comply with the AEEO. Protesters specifically denounced President Reggie DesRoches and  Richard Baker, director of the AEEO, for being “complicit in genocide.”

Chris Stipes, executive director of news and media relations, declined to comment.

A Rice University Police Department officer estimated that about 20 people attended the hour-long protest. Rice SJP organizer Kathryn Jarjoura said she deemed the protest a success, despite lower turnout than she had hoped for.

“There were a lot of people here for Owl Days,” Jarjoura, a Baker College senior, said. “I saw a lot of admin come out of the Allen Center and stand and watch or record us. A lot of people visiting [were] just standing and watching. People came out of Baker when we started and stood and watched. I think a lot of people saw and heard us, and I think that is a success.”

A number of the protesters gave speeches, including a speech from faculty member Kamala Visweswaran, a professor of anthropology. In her speech, she applauded the protesters for their activism and encouraged them to continue being critical and informed about world issues.

“I am appalled at Rice administration interference in student governance by forcing the Student Association to table its recent divestment resolution,” Visweswaran wrote in an email to the Thresher. “The SA should be allowed to proceed with the vote with no penalties … The pattern of bringing disciplinary charges against Rice students for exercising pro-Palestinian speech must stop.”

Rice SJP’s original Instagram post announcing the protest, and a number of the protesters present, made reference to ongoing student-administration conflicts at Pomona College and Vanderbilt University. 

“We hope that this protest is a rallying cry for students to tell administration that we’re not going to stand for suppression on this campus,” Haacke, a Sid Richardson College junior, said. “Obviously this is not a unique situation on Rice campus — this is happening around the country with administrations even arresting their own students.”

At Pomona, 20 students were arrested during a sit-in following the school’s attempted removal of a “mock apartheid wall.” During a sit-in at Vanderbilt protesting the university’s removal of a divestment amendment from the student government’s constitution, four students were arrested and, following a hearing, three were expelled. At the same protest, a local reporter was detained after making attempts to enter a locked building.



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