A fledgling University of Pennsylvania faculty group blocked the entrance to a campus building for an hour on Monday, a so-called “die-in” to show its “solidarity with civilians in Gaza.”
A pair of Penn Public Safety officials stood by for the duration as members of Penn Faculty for Justice in Palestine blockaded the steps of the administration building’s main entrance, The Daily Pennsylvanian reports.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, approximately 30 PFJP members “dressed in dark, monochromatic clothing” laid down on the steps alongside a large banner emblazoned with “Gazans murdered by Israel since 10/7/23.”
PFJP spokesperson Bassil Kublaoui, a clinical pediatrics professor, said the die-in’s purpose was to alert the campus to the alleged “inaction” of Penn officials to “the Palestinian community and the racist, hate speech directed towards faculty, staff, and students calling for Palestinian justice.”
“We don’t feel supported by the university,” Kublaoui (pictured) added.
Kublaoui also noted how people have “conflated anti-Zionism with antisemitism,” saying “criticism of a foreign state that is committing genocide is not antisemitism.”
Introducing itself on January 18 via a Daily Pennsylvanian column, PFJP claims the “Israeli occupation of Palestine is one of the great moral and political issues of our time,” and purports to “condemn all acts of terror and genocide” (but makes no mention Hamas’ October 7 surprise attack which started the current conflict).
PFJP also “insists on the necessity of shared campus governance,” one in which Penn officials “work with faculty, students, and staff to reject Islamophobic, anti-Arab, antisemitic, and other racist attacks and harassment by organizations both on and off campus.”
The new faculty group has dozens of members, including faculty, lecturers, staff, and graduate teaching instructors, and hopes to grow as more people learn about it, [English Professor Dagmawi Woubshet said].
“The university has yet to say anything to recognize the sheer scale of devastation, the death of innocent civilians,” Woubshet said. “Our action was to embody these deaths that our university administration refuses to recognize.”
Woubshet said the group kept the details of Monday’s event closely guarded, given the violence pro-Palestinian protesters recently faced at Columbia University. Some protesters there were sprayed with a chemical at an event earlier this month and had to seek medical attention. Those affected reported vomiting, nausea, chest and abdominal pain, and headaches, according to ABC News.
Woubshet, who according to his faculty page is a “scholar, writer, and translator working at the intersection of African American, LGBTQIA+, and African studies,” noted the PFJP is just the latest such faculty group of “about 100” at various universities, including Harvard and Rutgers.
IMAGES: TR/X; U. Pennsylvania