Morehouse University, Gaza, Protest, International, Global

Morehouse University Remains Free Of Gaza Protests As Mood Shifts

The anger is simmering under the surface at Morehouse but has not yet resulted in the encampments and other protests witnessed at other universities.

As the college protests around the Israeli bombing of Palestine have heated up at universities around the country, the response at HBCUs like Morehouse College has remained muted by comparison. During a recent visit to Atlanta, Vice President Kamala Harris asked the university’s student government president about the university temperature and what topics students may be interested in hearing during President Joe Biden’s visit scheduled for May 19. 

As The New York Times reports, the anger is simmering under the surface but has not yet resulted in the encampments and other protests witnessed at other universities, including Atlanta’s Emory University. Morehouse, the paper reports, has traditionally been concerned with domestic matters and is less concerned with international affairs. 

David Thomas, Morehouse College president, told The New York Times that he did not believe that the vaunted institution is a place for “cancel culture.”

As Thomas said on May 9, “This should not be a place that cancels people regardless of if we agree with them. Whether people support the decision or not, they are committed to having it happen on our campus in a way that doesn’t undermine the integrity or dignity of the school.”

Despite Thomas’ assertion, several meetings with leaders have contained spirited exchanges, and faculty have expressed that they will be boycotting the commencement. A group of Morehouse alumni have also written a letter critical of the institution’s history of “celebrating student activists long after they have graduated.”

Morehouse is much more bound to tradition than most universities, even other HBCUs. The expectation from alumni, including Cedric Richmond, who graduated from Morehouse in 1995, ran Biden’s public engagement office, and is now a senior advisor at the Democratic National Committee, is that the commencement will not be protested. Richmond told the Times, “The Morehouse College graduation, at least as I remember it, is a very solemn event,” Richmond said. “You have almost 500 African American males walking across that stage, whose parents and grandparents sacrificed and those students worked their butts off to, one, get into Morehouse, and two, to graduate. That’s a very significant day. And I’m just not sure whether students or protesters are going to interfere with that solemn moment.”

Benjamin Bayliss, a junior at Morehouse, believes that it is time for the protests to make their way onto the campus at Morehouse as he told the Times, “I feel like the protests do need to come out, because if you don’t see students advocating for what they believe in, then the change that they’re advocating for will never come about,” Bayliss said. “You really feel the weight of what King did and the fire of the torch that he lit that we have to carry on.”

Samuel Livingston, an associate professor of Africana studies at Morehouse, meanwhile, criticized Biden’s foreign policy concerning Gaza, contrasting his likable nature with concern over the ethical problems of Biden’s policy.“ Joe Biden is probably a very nice person,” said Livingston, “but niceness is not the level of leadership that we need. We need ethical leadership. And continuing to support the aiding, abetting and the stripping of Palestinian land, from Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, is not ethical.”

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