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“Students United Will Never be Divided”

Updated: May 10

By: Barbara Kay, Jennifer Ward, Arlenis Marmolejos, Thomas Dachik, Belle Martinelli, Natalie Tulloch, Sophia Pallozzi and Brandon Cruz


Eight "The Purchase Phoenix" reporters were present at these events. 


Protesters celebrate the announcement of the negotiation results. (Photo by: Natalie Tulloch)


On the evening of May 6, members of Raise the Consciousness (RTC) met with the administration to discuss their demands in the Neuberger Museum, which the administration agreed to satisfy to a “capacity,” according to Deśi Rivera, a member of RTC who was present at the meeting.


Protesters cheer as they celebrate the news. (Photo by: Brandon Cruz)


At 4 p.m. the administration met with student protestors to address and negotiate their demands, while nearly 300 students rallied outside of Students Services. At 9:38 p.m. Rivera ran out of the Neuberger shouting, “We got it! We did it!” 


A protester leads chants at the May 6 rally. (Photo by: Thomas Dachik)


“All of the tears, all of the fighting, everything paid off,” said RTC member Sabrina Thompson as she began to cry.


Faculty presiding officer Andrew Salomon, who was present during the meeting, wrote to the Purchase community, clarifying that certain demands made by RTC were not fully met.


“At no point did anyone agree to divestment from Israel or to ‘BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions),’” Salomon wrote.


Protesters cry together as the results settle in. (Photo by: Natalie Tulloch)


However, Thompson, who was at the forefront of the movement, went on to say that this would not be the end for RTC.


“We have a lot of work to do,” Thompson continued. “We will continue to demand that [Administration] keep our community safe. Thank you all for supporting us.”


Student protesters, led by RTC, built an encampment on the quad on May 2. That night, the encampment was violently raided by police– including UPD, state, and county officers. From May 3 to May 5, the encampment continued, with visits from Patricia Bice– vice president for student affairs and enrollment management– attempting to negotiate with the protesters for the disbursement of the encampment.


A protester sits with a "Free Palestine" sign during the May 6 rally. (Photo by: Sophia Pallozzi)


When the negotiations didn’t succeed, the encampment stayed until it was deconstructed at 9:17 a.m. on May 5. 


Protesters sticking up their middle finger at University Police Officers monitoring the rally. (Photo by: Brandon Cruz)


“After five days of working on an encampment at SUNY Purchase for the freedom of Palestine, we were able to get Milly Peña to agree to all of our demands in some capacity to get everything we wanted,” Rivera said.


“Palestine will be free within our lifetime. The power of students across the country and the power of activism all over the world will eventually have an effect,” she continued. 


A protester falls to the ground at news of the negotiation. (Photo by: Natalie Tulloch)


"All parties invested a lot of time and thought into the discussions and the proposal put forward by the students," Bice wrote via email to The Phoenix. "I am happy that we can move forward with some requests in the coming days and put others in place that will allow for student voices and input more broadly in decisions that affect the college."


Peña did not respond to The Phoenix's request for comment, but on May 7 sent out a campus-wide email.


Peña listed some of the conclusions of the negotiation. This includes a committee of students being formed to discuss ethical investing, a commitment to hold in abeyance any disciplinary consequences for those arrested, and a full review of the arrests on May 2.


This also included transparency regarding the companies Purchase College does business with, and recognizing the "loss of innocent lives."


Peña wrote, "We reaffirm that everyone on this campus has the right to work and learn in a safe environment, free from discrimination and harassment."


The email continued, "Our commitment is to provide an equitable educational environment, as per our legal, moral, and ethical duty, and I will continue to partner with all in the campus community who share this commitment."


“We stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine,” Rivera said. “They gain freedom for themselves because they have the power.” 


A protester smiles while holding a sign of a Palestinian flag. (Photo by: Belle Martinelli)


Updates to follow.


© The Purchase Phoenix, 2024 


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