Loyola Students Protest the University’s Investments in ‘Genocidal Corporations’ 

The Coalition of Solidarity and Justice hosted an emergency demonstration on the East Quad April 22 and demanded Loyola divest from companies manufacturing weapons used in Israel’s attacks on Gaza. 

The Coalition of Solidarity and Justice hosted an emergency demonstration on the East Quad April 22 and demanded Loyola divest from companies manufacturing weapons used in Israel’s attacks on Gaza. 

Students and community members gathered from 12-5 p.m. on the quad with signs, keffiyehs and their voices to send a message to Loyola’s administration concerning their investments. The demonstration was organized by the Students for Justice in Palestine, the Loyola Dissenters, Loyola’s Black Cultural Center and the Loyola Alliance of Socialists. 

Students set up on the quad to listen to speeches and chant messages, including, “Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry, we are all on your side,” and, “No justice, no peace.” 

The demonstration was announced April 21 on Instagram. Fourth-year and SJP president Lena Abushaban said the urgency of this event was crucial in order to show solidarity for other schools who established encampments in support of Gaza. 

“Essentially we’re following in the footsteps of students at Columbia and all over the U.S. — students at Yale, students at Harvard, students at Vanderbilt,” Abushaban said. 

After setting up a pro-Palestinian encampment on school grounds, students at Columbia University faced suspensions and arrests for trespassing on April 17, according to the Associated Press. Columbia University has since halted in-person classes and shifted to hybrid and remote learning until further notice. 

As Loyola students gathered, Abushaban said she hopes these efforts and those of other universities puts pressure on Columbia’s administration to revoke the suspensions of their students.

The Revolutionary Communist Party distributed flyers during the demonstration outlining the nationwide turmoil of pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses. The flier called for the support of protesters at Columbia University and across the nation and demanded all of their charges be dropped.  

Alongside the protester’s demands for divestment, students also called for more transparency within the university. Speakers demanded a reinstatement of the student representative position on the Board of Trustees and the inclusion of the Loyola community on the investment council.

Abushaban said their demands stem from a history of not being heard by the Board of Trustees. More than anything, she said she believes the board prioritizes profit. 

SJP and other student organizations attempted to schedule a meeting with Loyola’s Chief Investment Officer, Katherine Wyatt, to discuss reappointing a student representative on the Board of Trustees and discuss the university’s investments, The Phoenix previously reported Feb. 14. Abushaban said the meeting was canceled with no action taken at all. 

Wyatt didn’t respond to The Phoenix’s request for comment. 

“The school doesn’t listen to the students, they listen to the people that fill their pockets,” Abushaban said. “If it doesn’t enrich them, it doesn’t matter to them.” 

Matt McDermott, Loyola spokesperson, wrote in an email to The Phoenix Loyola has already adopted the Sustainable Investment Policy which outlines the university’s commitment to sustainable, humane and just investment policies. Loyola will not adopt any other calls for divestment, according to McDermott.

On behalf of the university, McDermott wrote Loyola supports the student’s right to engage in civil discourse through respectful and responsible means and believes this enhances “education, engagement, and understanding.” 

Betty Kifle, a first-year student participating in the protest, said she hopes this sit-in demonstrates that you don’t have to be Palestinian to care for this cause. She said despite being met with struggle from the university, the community is consistently growing in number and strength. 

“Not only are we big in number, but we’re big in heart,” Kifle said. “We should care about each other because we’re human, not because of borderlines.” 

As protesters approached their fourth hour on the quad, a student delivered a speech detailing the events of the Feb. 14 town hall meeting where students from the Coalition for Solidarity and Justice questioned Loyola’s Chief Financial Officer Wayne Magdziarz about the university’s investments. 

Quotes taken from Magdziarz at the Feb. 14 town hall meeting were read aloud to the crowd and later posted to the SJP instagram. 

Magziarz didn’t respond to The Phoenix’s request for comment.

Leon Friedrich-Díaz, a fourth-year and member of the Loyola Alliance of Socialists, said the presence of students within campaigns for liberation is pivotal for progress in the movement. 

“The revolutionary history and tradition of students is ongoing, and students have always been at the forefront of social justice and change,” Friedrich-Díaz said. “It’s not only our duty to come out here, but it’s a necessity.” 

Friedrich-Díaz, a history major, said students at Loyola have privilege, regardless of their backgrounds. He said students need to make the most of their position and advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves. 

Amongst chants for Palestinian liberation, Friedrich-Díaz said in order to see change, they need to make it. 

“There’s nothing in this world that cannot be changed because we as human beings are the motivators, we are the drivers of history,”  Friedrich-Díaz said. “Viva viva Palestina.”

Featured image by Ella Govrik / The Phoenix

Laila Ali

Laila Ali