NUDivest demonstration at Norris shut down


Mariana Alfaro/Daily Senior Staffer

McCormick junior Omar Shanti takes down posters depicting slain Palestinians and activists off the wall in the lobby of Norris University Center after NUDivest’s demonstration was shut down by Norris staff members. The demonstration was held while parents and students checked in for this year’s Family Weekend.

Mariana Alfaro, Development and Recruitment Editor

Students and visiting families walking into Norris University Center on Friday afternoon were met with pictures of slain Palestinians and activists taped over the posters of Northwestern’s Campus Life Award recipients.

The setup was part of an NUDivest demonstration in the Norris lobby in protest of the lack of University action after Associated Student Government passed the group’s resolution last Winter Quarter. The resolution asked administrators to divest from six corporations its writers say sponsor violations of Palestinians’ human rights.

Posters of Campus Life Award recipients from all three quarters during the last academic year were covered with pictures and descriptions of slain Palestinians and activists and the logos of the six companies NUDivest wants Northwestern to divest from: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Hewlett-Packard, G4S, Caterpillar and Elbit Systems.

“We are here to draw attention to the hypocrisy of celebrating individuals who work towards the ‘improvement of quality of student life,’ while simultaneously contributing to the decimation of quality of life for the Palestinian people,” the NUDivest Facebook page posted before the event.

Norris staff members asked NUDivest to take down the pictures, which had been set up at noon, after 50 minutes of the demonstration’s display. In that time span, about 100 parents also checked into Norris for a Family Weekend event on the ground level, said Ashley Belisle, a New Student and Family Programs graduate intern. By 1:15 p.m., all demonstrators had left the area.

A few minutes into the demonstration, Norris staff members met with two NUDivest demonstrators, Omar Shanti and Marcel Hanna, to discuss Norris policies that the demonstration disobeyed. Shanti and Hanna remained in the administrator’s office for this discussion throughout the entire demonstration.

Hanna, a Weinberg junior, said the University made the terms regarding Norris events vague, and that staff told him activities need to be shut down if they interfere with “University business.”

“As students we should question these vague guidelines where the University has the discretion to decide what is interfering with this business and what isn’t,” he said.

Hanna said NUDivest decided to cover the Campus Life Awards with its posters not to target individuals on the posters but rather to show how NU as an institution honors the excellence of students while it “prohibits the occupied people of Palestine from being excellent students.”

He also said the University is not being held accountable for what students want since it hasn’t acted upon ASG’s resolution yet.

“It’s our duty to tell them, ‘You can’t just brush us off,'” he said.

Alexa Klein-Mayer, a Weinberg senior and member of NUDivest, said the student achievement posters are highly visible to students passing by who see their successful peers’ faces every day in the highly visited area, which is why NUDivest decided to hold their demonstration there.

“Underneath a lot of what goes on at Northwestern is this systematic racism and oppression and all these things and it’s like that’s what behind our campus life and our investments,” she said. “It’s something that has to be made visible because we can walk around all day and not see that.”

Klein-Mayer said she would like students, faculty and community members to use this demonstration as an opportunity to stop and reflect on the conflict and NU’s involvement with it.

Andrew Kittleson, a Weinberg sophomore and Family Ambassador, was manning the FA welcome table in Norris’ lobby right next to the demonstration. He said he understood why Norris had to shut the demonstration down, saying if demonstrators had placed their posters somewhere else they might have been allowed to do so.

“Covering the signs of student leaders on campus … is kind of disrespectful,” he said. “It’s nothing against your message or what you’re spreading but I think how you did it wasn’t the best.”

He said while he was covering the FA table, no parents or students stopped to ask him what was going on.

Though the Norris staffers who oversaw the removal of the posters refused to comment, Frank Zambrano, Norris’ cash operations manager, said Norris’ policy says any space reservation request has to go through Norris’ event managing office first.

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