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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Eight students begin hunger strike, protest College’s response to Israel-Hamas War

Students have initiated the hunger strike in reaction to “months of apathetic, cruel and provocative measures taken by the Beilock administration in reaction to the ongoing genocide in Gaza.”

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Students hunger striking spoke at the Feb. 19 protest outside of Parkhurst Hall. 

Updated (Feb. 20, 5:09 p.m.): This article has been updated to include a statement from College spokesperson Jana Barnello and further context about recent charges against student protestors at Brown University.

Updated (Feb. 20, 1:15 p.m.): This article has been updated to include a link to the complete letter “delivered to a representative of the Beilock administration.”

At noon on Feb. 19, eight Dartmouth students initiated a hunger strike protesting the College’s approach to the Israel-Hamas War. According to an email sent to The Dartmouth from The Dartmouth New Deal Coalition, the strike is a “last resort, following months of apathetic, cruel and provocative measures taken by the Beilock administration in reaction to the ongoing genocide in Gaza.” 

The strikers delivered a letter to a representative of the Beilock administration during a rally outside of Parkhurst Hall at noon. According to their email, the letter calls for the administration to “reverse its criminalization of pro-Palestinian activism and end its complicity in the ongoing genocide in Gaza.” It also outlines four demands — that the College “recognize and protect Palestinian students,” “divest from apartheid,” review the Dartmouth New Deal and drop the charges against Roan Wade ’25 and Kevin Engel ’27, two students who were arrested on Oct. 28 on trespassing charges related to a protest outside of Parkhurst Hall. Engel and Wade are taking part in the current strike. 

According to the email, the eight students, “seeing no other way to have their voices heard, will subject themselves to an indefinite period of starvation.”

The New Deal Coalition, which penned the letter to the administration, includes the Palestine Solidarity Coalition, the Sunrise Movement at Dartmouth, the Student Worker Collective at Dartmouth, Co-FIRED, Fuerza, Dartmouth’s NAACP chapter, Dartmouth Asian American Studies Coalition and Dartmouth Student Prison Initiative. Six of the eight strikers were willing to publicize their names. Wade and Engel are joined by Ramsey Alsheikh ’26, Paul Yang ’23, Calvin George ’24 and Jordan Narrol ’25. Wade clarified that the hunger strike will not be dry, meaning that the strikers will consume liquids without caloric value. 

In interviews with The Dartmouth, the strikers expressed frustration with the administration’s lack of communication and unwillingness to collaborate with students. 

According to Alsheikh, Beilock has hesitated to express any measure of public support for the Palestinian community, and has only met with Muslim and Palestinian students “behind closed doors.” He also criticized the College’s decision not to release a statement following the shooting of three students of Palestinian descent on Nov. 25 in Burlington, Vt. 

According to the letter, “By wrongly accusing pro-Palestinian protestors of threatening violence in the fall, President Beilock has actively contributed to the stereotype of Palestinians and Muslims as ‘terrorists.’”

Wade had similar complaints, citing their experience during and after the arrest. According to Wade, Beilock refused to engage with the protestors and was “dismissive” of Wade’s concerns for their physical safety during the following weeks. Wade said that both they and Engel have received hate mail and death threats since the incident. 

“This institution has decided that my life is not worth protecting,” Wade said. “I would rather have more agency over the physical harm that comes to me and hope that something positive can come out of it … This is not a safe thing for me to do, but this is something that I feel is needed, and I am more than willing to do it for the cause.”

Wade added that they do not believe there are other modes to achieve change aside from hunger strikes. 

“We have reached a point where it has become explicitly clear that there are no democratic mechanisms to achieve change at this university,” Wade said. “At this point, hunger striking feels like the only option.”

Alsheikh shared a similar sentiment. 

“We’re doing this because the administration has left us with no option, no avenue for dialogue, despite all of their grandiose claims of ‘brave spaces,’” he said. “And at this point, we only have our bodies to put on the line.”

In an email statement, College spokesperson Jana Barnello wrote that the “safety and well-being of all Dartmouth students is our top priority.”

“Dartmouth values, supports and defends the right of freedom of expression, including the right to protest and demonstrate peacefully, in accordance with our established policies,” Barnello wrote. “Our student life professionals are in contact with these students and continue to provide health and wellness care to make sure they are safe. The safety and well-being of all Dartmouth students is our top priority.”

The letter cited how charges against student protestors at Brown University were dropped in November 2023 and called for similar intervention from the College. However, 40 more Brown students were arrested for suspected trespassing in a campus building in December 2023. Those charges have not been dropped, and the students were arraigned last week and pleaded not guilty.

Wade and Engel’s trial is currently scheduled for Feb. 26. According to Wade, the coalition has been in contact with activists at other universities, including hunger strikers from Brown.

The third demand in the letter, requesting that the College “divest from apartheid,” was included in the Dartmouth New Deal.

According to George, the strikers aren’t expecting divestment to occur “overnight” and are primarily looking for “transparency” about investments in companies that affect the lives of Israelis and Palestinians.

Engel added that they feel “a duty and an obligation to make sure that the endowment reflects the interests of the student body.”

According to Alsheikh, human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’tselem have “verified that the Israeli government practices apartheid against Palestinians.”

“We’re asking the university to commission a third-party report to ensure that our tuition money is not being used to fund any sort of human rights violations,” he said.

Regarding the strikers’ approach to managing academics and other campus commitments, George said, “We’ll do our best. There are some things that are important enough that sometimes, you have to sacrifice other aspects of your life. And I think all of us are prepared to do that.”

According to Yang, the strikers will be supported by an extensive network of student volunteers and some faculty. The Dartmouth was not able to confirm which faculty will support the students by the time of publication. 

George added that the strikers “have procedures in place to monitor our health and well-being.”

However, Wade said that the support of the administration is the only way to end the strike because “there’s nothing that the people around us who care about us can actually do to make this less painful.”

Alsheikh highlighted the diverse backgrounds of the strikers and their supporters, suggesting diversity to be evidence of a “clear, universal human interest in supporting Palestinian human rights.” He particularly emphasized the participation of both Palestinian and Jewish students.

Narrol added, “As a Jewish American, as someone who is the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, this is not what Judaism says is okay … the genocide that is happening and that is being perpetuated by Israel is not the view of all Jews.”

According to Alsheikh, the strike won’t end until the strikers feel the College genuinely and “in good faith” engages with their demands.

“In the meantime, we’re going to starve,” he said. “The decision is theirs.”

According to Yang, the hunger strike is a “new stage of activism for Palestine on campus.”

Correction Appended (Feb. 19, 5:09 p.m.): A previous version of this article stated that the eight students initiated their hunger strike at midnight on Feb. 19. The article has been updated to clarify that they began their hunger strike at noon on Feb. 19 at the same time as the protest.