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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Quinnipiac community hosts gathering after recent tragedies in Israel and Gaza

Nicholas Pestritto
Quinnipiac University President Judy Olian listens to local and campus leaders at an Oct. 10 gathering held to provide community members with a space to reflect upon the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza.

In the wake of a surge in conflict in Israel and Gaza, Quinnipiac University officials on Oct. 10 hosted a community gathering in the Carl Hansen Student Center to provide students, faculty and staff with support and a safe space for reflection.

The militant group Hamas launched an attack on southern Israel three days prior, on Oct. 7. Israeli military forces subsequently retaliated by launching airstrikes and blockading access to humanitarian aid in Gaza.

Thousands of people, including children, have been killed, injured and displaced from their homes amid the violence — and the causalty counts are expected to rise as the conflict progresses.

Jennifer Brown, dean of the university’s School of Law, opened the forum with remarks and reassurances on behalf of faculty and administration.

“We thought it would be helpful for our community to gather in unity and solidarity,” Brown said. “To support each other but mostly to listen.”

Omer Bajwa, director of Muslim life in the chaplain’s office at Yale University, condemned the violence and spoke about the outpouring of grief he has seen from his Jewish, Israeli, Arab and Palestinian students.

“I can share my truth and my feelings and also create a space that I can listen to another’s truth and feelings as well,” Bajwa said. “They don’t need to be mutually exclusive.”

Bajwa argued that values of tolerance, conversation, exchange and engagement would help communities navigate the pain, grief and suffering.

“I have no answers, other than you are not alone,” said Reena Judd, Quinnipiac’s rabbi.

Students who attended the event, which began in the piazza around 9 p.m. and lasted roughly 30 minutes, had mixed reactions about the length of the gathering.

“I feel like I was expecting more,” said Adji Cisse, a junior business analytics major who is Muslim. “I feel like it was very beat-around-the-bush, I just thought that there should be more.”

The community gathering concluded with a moment of silence.

“I thought because of how drastic this event is and how sensitive a topic it is I think it is best to keep it short and sweet,” said Amina Farid, a junior interdisciplinary studies major. “I felt like the moment of silence was much needed, and I feel like that’s more important than people speaking the whole time.”

Other students argued the event lacked substance, though.

“It felt a bit short,” said Daniel Metser, a fifth-year health science studies major. “It definitely would have been nice to get a bit more technical about the stuff that was going on in Israel.”

Students and faculty members gather in Quinnipiac University’s Carl Hansen Student Center on Tuesday, Oct. 10, to listen to community leaders reflect upon the ongoing crisis in Israel and Palestine. (Nicholas Pestritto)

And several students said they would have appreciated a more in-depth discussion.

“I liked some of the sentiments, but I felt like they were a bit vague at times and I think you run into that a lot with politics where you don’t want to hurt people’s feelings,” Metser said.

There was a visible Public Safety presence at the event, with no open forum for discussion among attendees.

“It could have been longer,” said Riaz Ras, a sophomore political science and criminal justice major. “I feel like having a couple of people speak on their thoughts in a civil manner so no conflict could occur is something beneficial.”

Despite this, some students who attended the event shared their sense of appreciation for the university acknowledging the violence in Israel and Gaza.

“Being Jewish, having parents that were born in Israel, having most of my extended family living in Israel. I was happy to see the university recognize it,” Metser said. “I wanted to see and be a part of it, and potentially meet some people who are experiencing the same emotions I am.”

The coverage of Israel and Gaza has dominated the news cycle in recent weeks. Over 80% of Americans have expressed at least some sympathy for both Israeli and Palestinian people as they face ongoing fighting, according to a recent polling conducted by CNN.

“I feel like a lot of people are on the same terms,” Ras said. “Everyone agrees that this conflict should end for both sides, the Israeli side and the Palestinian side.”

Students like Nick Heisler, a sophomore nursing major, said they attended to show support for the people affected by the conflict despite not being directly affected.

“I’m not Jewish or Palestinian, but I thought it was important to attend this event as someone who is not directly affected,” Heisler said. “Knowing people who are affected I thought it was definitely important to come to support them and hear what they have to say, and also to educate myself more on everything that’s going on.”

Overall, a major talking point was the impact of social media spreading misinformation about the conflict.

“In general, social media is not the best place to get information because there’s always going to be different stories for different posts,” Farid said. “It should be your own research on it and you should be able to look at both sides of the story.”

Nearly one-quarter of Americans say they have shared a fake news story, with 14% saying they knew the story was false initially, and another 16% saying they shared a story they later realized was fake, according a Pew Research Center survey.

“As a Muslim, it’s a very challenging time for us and even for people on the Israeli side,” Ras said. “I feel like the media portrays a certain point of view and I think it is important to see both sides of the scenario.”

Ralph Dodd, the regional director of collegiate counseling who oversees Hartford Healthcare’s counseling centers, encouraged students to make a counseling appointment if they felt they needed support. Quinnipiac provides free on-campus counseling services, as well as grief and depression groups.

To make an appointment, students can contact Quinnipiac Counseling Services at (203)582-8680 or by email at [email protected].

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