The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Mac for Palestine occupies Markim, demands not met


Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that the CSA posted a sign that they would be working remotely on March 6th. However, this sign was not put up on March 6th and had no correlation with the die-in.

On Tuesday, March 5 at 10:30 a.m., several dozen students involved in the Mac for Palestine Coalition assembled in the Center for Study Away (CSA), located on the second floor of Markim Hall, in protest of Macalester’s continued affiliation with study away programs in Israel. Mac for Palestine stated that they will continue to occupy the building until their demands are met. 

Organizers occupied the office’s floors in a ‘die-in,’ a form of protest in which participants lie on the ground and pretend to be dead. They disrupted the flow of people passing by, lifting signs calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and for the CSA to end their institutional relationships with the Israeli universities Hebrew University and the University of Haifa. 

President Suzanne Rivera has previously stated that Macalester would continue these programs during a Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) meeting held on Nov. 30, 2023. 

Throughout the academic year, student efforts have continued to push back against this decision. On Monday, Feb. 26, Mac for Palestine organized their second cross-campus demonstration calling for a ceasefire. Around this time, the coalition organized to promote and distribute their pamphlet “50 Years of Morally Bankrupt Financing at Mac,” which argues that Macalester’s investments from the 1970s to today have been immoral. The Mac Weekly is in the process of conducting an independent fact-check of this pamphlet. 

Mac for Palestine’s Instagram states that “time and time again, it is the student activists who are on the right side of history, with Macalester administration and Board of Trustees reluctantly trailing behind.” 

Gabe, a student member of Mac for Palestine (Mac for Palestine members have requested to be referred to by first name only), helped compose the pamphlet to disrupt the narrative of Macalester’s history that typically accompanies Founding Day events. 

“We decided as a group that the parts of Mac history we were interested in celebrating were not the same as the parts of history that senior leadership was interested in celebrating,” Gabe said. “We wanted to uplift the generations of student organizers who have done important work on this campus around the financial decisions that had been made here.” 

On Tuesday, Mac for Palestine members met outside of Dupre Residence Hall and walked over to Markim Hall at 10:30 a.m., chanting “fund education, not occupation” as they walked up the stairs to the CSA. Following a series of chants expressing their solidarity with Palestine, they dispersed and lay down, covering the office’s floor space. 

Gabe explained Mac for Palestine’s choice to prioritize Macalester’s partnership with Israeli universities in an interview with The Mac Weekly. He argues that Israel’s goal is to encourage students from other countries to study abroad in Israel and form relationships with Israelis, while dissuading future generations of academics from making relationships with Palestinians. He also points to these universities’ engagement with Israeli military programs; both universities host the Israeli Defense Force’s (IDF) ‘Havatzalot’ meaning ‘Lillies’ program. 

Neither the University of Haifa nor Hebrew University have stated that they intend to dissuade students from making relationships with Palestinian scholars and students by hosting these programs. 

Israel’s Council for Higher Education (CHE) released a statement in 2019 sharing their plan to increase international engagement with Israeli universities. In the statement, the CHE stated part of their motivation stems “from a Zionist standpoint of opening these institutions to worldwide Jewry and turning into and turning Israel into a beacon of academia.” 

“The point of Macalester ending its institutional relationships with Hebrew University and the University of Haifa is to take a stand against that state strategy and to say that Macalester is no longer willing to participate in something that we know to be part of Israel’s propaganda machine,” Gabe said. 

Gabe also shared that Mac for Palestine chose to hold a die-in in response to the administration’s incompliance to Mac for Palestine’s demands. 

“The Macalester administration is not interested in taking risks unless students force them to,” Gabe said. “On this issue of genocide, students are going to have to force it out of the people who work here, out of senior leadership.” These plans for the die-in, which had not been made public prior to the start of the protest, came as a surprise to many staff in the Institute for Global Citizenship (IGC). 

 As protesters settled in and prepared to stay until the CSA agreed to meet the coalition’s demands, Abby, a member of Mac for Palestine, noted that CSA staff stepped over protesters on the ground as they moved throughout the office. 

Macalester Public Safety arrived at Markim Hall approximately 20 minutes after the protest began. 

 Protesters then took a short break from chanting. Soon after, Dean of Students Javier Gutierrez and Associate Dean of Students Angela Walker came with the intention of meeting with Mac for Palestine members. 

 According to Abby, additional support for the protest showed up throughout the duration of the die-in, with peak participation at an estimated 50 people occupying the CSA.

 “Around 11:30 was a really great moment because a lot of professors stopped in,” Abby said. “[We] got to talk with professors and that was really, really awesome. And then, of course, there were always people outside consistently throughout the whole day, so people were coming in and out, helping outside, passing out stuff and talking to people.” 

Throughout the day, protesters periodically resumed chanting and sang protest songs, and students involved in Mac for Palestine reiterated their demands at the top of each hour. 

At around noon, Vice President for Student Affairs Kathryn Kay Coquemont arrived and spoke with student representatives for Mac for Palestine, hearing their calls to action. About an hour and a half later, Coquemont left to join other staff in a meeting on the third floor of Markim Hall. 

“We had a cross-divisional meeting to discuss student safety,” Coquemont wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. “Unfortunately, the protest is not the only campus event we had to consider. We had to think about how to secure buildings that promoted student safety, while also ensuring that students had the ability to protest and be heard.” 

As the meeting took place, student protesters’ chants echoed throughout the building. 

“It was probably 3 or 3:30, and we were like ‘they’re up there, they’re talking, we need to make sure that they can hear us,’” Abby said. “And so we were screaming. We were in the stairwell, and we all had the megaphones, and we were yelling at them.” 

A few hours later, at roughly 4 p.m., Interim Director for the CSA Shanti Freitas returned to the second floor of Markim, announcing that the CSA would not be signing the documentation agreeing to end their support of the study away programs in Israel. 

“As you all know, we’ve been upstairs and having lots of conversations internally, and I just wanted to say that the CSA … will not be signing the letter that you gave, and at this point, there’s no changes to what our approved list [of study away programs] looks like,” Freitas said in a video that was posted to Mac for Palestine’s Instagram account. 

Freitas continued, telling protesters that they were welcome to continue occupying the office before turning to Gutierrez, who informed them that the building would lock at 7 p.m. and spoke about the safety protocol for staying there overnight. 

After a second day of the die-in, Mac for Palestine protesters gathered outside Markim Hall at 5 p.m. for about an hour to chant and sing songs before returning to occupy the CSA. For Reece, a member of Mac for Palestine, this rally felt more empowering than previous events. 

“I think that because we’ve been occupying a space, there’s a feeling of, ‘oh, we can actually do this, we have a voice here,’” Reece said. “I think that’s an energy that we can bring to other fights on campus, that I want to use to uplift and support everyone who’s trying to create positive change.” 

During the rally, Rivera sent an email to students, faculty and staff in which she acknowledged the continued occupation of the CSA and said that she has “offered to meet with the Mac for Palestine student protesters when [she] return[s] from [her] work representing the college in Asia.” 

This is an ongoing story. The Mac Weekly will continue to report on this in our future print and online editions.


Maddie Heinz contributed to the reporting for this story.

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About the Contributors
Emma Salomon
Emma Salomon, Editor-in-Chief
Emma Salomon '24 (she/her) is the Editor-in-Chief, from Ithaca, NY. She majors in History and International Studies with a minor in French and concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. She is passionate and a little too intense about her Google Calendar.   
Cal Martinez
Cal Martinez, News Editor
Cal Martinez '26 (they/them) is one of the news editors and an English major from metro Detroit, Michigan. Their best friend in high school, who happened to be their English teacher, introduced them to journalism and annotating poetry with fancy highlighters, and their sleep schedule has never been the same since.
Mandy Week
Mandy Week, News Editor
Mandy Week '25 (she/her) is one of the news editors and from Rochester, MN. She is a philosophy major with minors in Spanish, media studies, and linguistics (she doesn't want to do two capstones). She has been bowling for 13 years—very close to the number of fruits that she is allergic to.

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    DavidMar 12, 2024 at 12:05 pm

    How childish. MfP members demand the right not to be identified, but refuse to respect the rights of others to attend an off-campus study program of their choice or even the rights of Macalester staff to work in a non-toxic environment. How do they think the staff of the CSA felt about this? Is making Macalester a less desirable place to work a goal for MfP? Is being self-indulgent and lacking in self-awareness a few more of them?

    Because those things they are accomplishing.