On Tuesday, April 23, 2024, our students began forming the Evergreen Gaza Solidarity Encampment on Red Square on the Olympia Campus. As part of an agreement with the college, students ended the encampment on Wednesday, May 1. I heard impassioned calls from students to issue a statement on the college’s position regarding the catastrophe in Gaza. As part of the agreement reached between students representing the encampment and college administrators, I agreed to make this statement.

Like many, I am horrified and grief-stricken by the violence and suffering being inflicted due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I mourn the destruction of universities and hospitals, the killing of journalists, and want to see the release of prisoners being held without due process. I wish to see an end to the violence and restoration of international law, including respect for the March 25, 2024, United Nations resolution that called for a lasting, sustainable ceasefire honored by all parties, the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, expanded humanitarian assistance, and the protection of civilians. Restoration of international law also requires that the International Court of Justice fairly adjudicate charges of genocide.

I share these thoughts as a member of this academic community, and I urge each of us to learn about the history of the conflict, the current conditions in Gaza and to speak about what we learn. Given the role that United States arms play in the conflict, we can do no less. Evergreen’s Evans Library maintains resources for more learning.

Beyond our individual responsibilities, Evergreen has responsibilities as an institution. In a time of war, the search for knowledge is more important than ever. Teaching and learning require an environment that values free expression and the open exchange of ideas. The encampment at Evergreen is a powerful example of what peaceful free expression can look like. Defending space for free expression is a core responsibility of the college. Alongside this is the responsibility to provide for the safety of our entire campus community.

The agreement we reached brought an end to the encampment and marks the beginning of a new phase of work. You can find the full text of the agreement on our website here. Taking demands for divestment and alternative models of crisis response seriously requires that we grapple with the complexity inherent in these subjects, so we are now beginning a set of deliberative processes where we can educate ourselves and each other to ultimately produce specific, actionable proposals.

For this work to be successful in creating positive change, we will need more than free expression. Free expression is rarely an end in itself. In an academic institution, free expression is a necessary condition in the quest for knowledge. Beyond free expression, we need the capacity to listen to each other, embrace inconvenient complexity, and welcome other points of view. Let us be especially on guard against Islamophobia and antisemitism as we engage with each other in this moment.

I am deeply grateful to the students, faculty, and staff who helped the college navigate the past weeks with integrity and fidelity to our mission. They fill me with hope for the work ahead.