The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

Hold the line


This semester has been a lot for us all. While students, staff, and faculty have begun to adjust to new orders or operation, there are still many challenges faced by the Johnson community. We are still facing low enrollment, heightened in part by the staff and faculty buyout, and students who chose to transfer to other institutions because of the previous semesters’ changes; the Performing Arts and Technology degree program will be no longer supported on the campus; and there is the threat of losing Basement Medicine itself.

In the midst of it all, Vermont State University students are fighting. On Friday, May 3, I visited the Castleton campus on behalf of the Student Government Association and found a group of student protesters vocalizing their support for Palestine, calling for the University to divest funds from Israel.

Students sat together on blankets in the grass in front of Castleton’s Fine Arts Center, holding and painting signs that were later displayed inside the building. The students spoke about how important it was that they were showing their support. Many of them weren’t yet aware of the simultaneous demonstrations happening at other VTSU campuses and were pleasently suprised to learn about accidental solidarity.

Among the students were Emerson Jolliffe, Janus Doenges, Oscar Dowling, and Petra McLay, who spoke to me about why they chose to be outside, showing their support for Palestine.

Said Jolliffe, “Our [university] is saying ‘We support Palestine’ but have over five million dollars in Israeli weapons and stock.”

Jolliffe continues to say that it doesn’t make sense for our institution, which has, in the past, claimed itself to be focused on social justice and in support of Palestine, to have so much money going straight into this “war.”

They continued, “I feel that, by going here, my money is going into that.”

“I think there’s no such thing as an ethical war, but this isn’t even a war,” said Doenges. “If Israel stops fighting, then Palestine will be free. If we stop fighting for Palestine, Palestine will no longer exist.”

Said McLay, “Being here is the least I could do.”

Cohen Repaci, a Johnson student visiting with the SGA, spoke about how special it was to see the cross-campus support for such an important issue.
Said Krystina Carnifax, “We vote and speak up with dollars, with money. If we show that we won’t support where our money is going, they will have to listen to us.”

“It gets hard to see what’s happening, but it’s important that we keep our eyes on Gaza,” Carnifax said. “The essence of what it comes to is that Palestinian families deserve better.”

Other students mentioned the unjust violence happening to students peacefully protesting for Gaza, Sudan, and many other countries facing brutal treatment, all partially funded by American dollars.

My heart is with all of my fellow students, on VTSU campuses, students all over the world, and especially with students in Palestine.

There are many who don’t believe protesting will do anything for the people of Gaza, and there’s nothing they can do in their homes. But at the beginning of this month, the University of California Riverside campus became the first in its system to make a deal with their student protesters.

The student sit-in began on April 29, and while their demands haven’t been met entirely, Riverside has agreed to investigate and “explore the removal” of their investments in companies that play a hand in arms manufacturing and delivery. Their business school has also discontinued their study abroad programs to Israel. This is divesting.

After four days, the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus reached an agreement with their student protesters. They have agreed to meet with students to talk about divesting; they have agreed to support a group of displaced Palestinian students; they have agreed to that and compromise on many of the students’ other demands.

Northwestern University in Chicago, Ill. has reached a deal with their student protesters; Brown University in Providence, R.I. has reached a deal with theirs. At the University of Minnesota and Howard University, students are making changes. This is what action looks like.

Let this be your reminder: using your voice works. Change cannot happen if people aren’t willing to fight for it.

Our own university is in the middle of a less-than-graceful transformation, and while, at times, it does get frustrating, we have to remember that it is our responsibility to make our campuses what we want them to be. Higher admin is not here with us every day, attending our events, sitting in our classrooms, or sleeping in our dorms. If you, a student seeking an education on this campus, are not willing to fight for your classes, your clubs, your programs, then you must question how much these things genuinely matter to you.

And in fighting, you will get tired, you will get annoyed, and you will need a break. At the same time, you’ll question whether or not any of what you are doing is worth it, whether the cause is actually worth fighting for. It forces you to persevere and continuously explore all angles of the fight. Is that not what caring for something is about? Is that not what we strive for: a community that has the resolve to pull itself together in its most troubling times?

We have quite literally only scratched the surface of what we’re capable of. Take a deep breath, drink some water, and hold the fucking line.

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About the Contributor
Dayne Bell
Dayne Bell, Editor in Chief
Dayne (he/they) is a creative writing student who has probably already told you where he's from. His zodiac sign is Pisces, which tells you everything you need to know.

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