Letter From RI School of Design President to Occupying Protesters Is Something Else—So Is the Result

On Monday, more than 20 activists took over part of an administrative and academic building at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, as part of the campus protest actions over Israel’s actions in Gaza. 

They posted videos of their occupation, describing the piled-up chairs blocking the hall as a “thesis.” There was also a picture painted on the wall of Leila Khaled, who was a plane hijacker, as a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), “a secular Palestinian Marxist–Leninist and revolutionary socialist organization.” You can watch the occupiers’ video here on X.

They were demanding that the school declare the “Israeli Occupation of Gaza as genocide,” and that the school divest from companies that are “implicated in sustaining Israeli Apartheid.”

But on Thursday, the school president, Crystal Williams, had had enough. She sent out an email noting that their occupation of the building was interfering with the ability of the other students to get to their work, that even after multiple requests the occupiers had prevented other students and faculty from doing what they needed to do, and that was “contrary to our institutional values.” She said there was finals work and showcase work that other students couldn’t access, and grants were being jeopardized. That interfered with the mission of the school and was against the code of conduct. But then came the funny part. 

She said the occupiers had to get out by 2:30 and undergo a “restorative justice process.” They had to return the space to its original condition. They also had to meet with the students and faculty whose work they had “negatively impacted, listen to the impact of their actions, and engage in respectful dialog, and reimburse those who have spent personal funds on no longer viable projects as a result of the occupation”: 

Wow, what a concept. Rules and threat of expulsion. Actually, holding students to account for what they do, even saying that they had to clean everything up. 

So, what happened? 

They left the building and have agreed to comply with the “restorative justice process,” according to the school. 

“Our focus is now on enabling students with work in the building to retrieve it and then to conduct a restorative justice process to restore the space and address the harm that was done,” Pres. Willams said.

Now, that’s the way to do it, with a little of their own “struggle session” theory used on them in reverse, to make them see how they’d hurt other people. 

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