Pro-Palestinian protesters at UC campus secure deal with administration

Sitting face to face with UC Riverside Chancellor Kim Wilcox in a conference room on campus, Samia Alkam handed over her Palestinian identification card.

A student pursuing her doctorate at Riverside, Alkam discloses that her Palestinian ID confines her to the West Bank in Palestine. She clarifies to Wilcox that despite holding American citizenship, Israel restricts West Bank residents like her from traveling to destinations such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem without a specialized permit or visa. 

Of importance during their discussion was the summer abroad program provided by Riverside’s School of Business. The program involves visits to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for students. 

Just days before, pro-Palestinian student demonstrators at Riverside established a campsite and demanded the university cut ties with Israel. Alkam, leading negotiations for the students, urged Wilcox to halt the abroad program, asserting it breached the university’s anti-discrimination policy by excluding students based on their national origin. 

“They have students on campus who are unable to partake in that program solely due to their birth status,” Alkam shared with EdSource afterwards. “It was crucial for me to visually underscore that for them.”

As per the U.S. State Department’s guidelines, American citizens who are West Bank residents need a visa or permit to enter Israel. Other Americans can travel for business or tourism purposes to Israel without a visa using their passport.  

Directing their efforts towards the study abroad program indicated the students’ approach to seeking concrete changes at Riverside even in the absence of financial divestment from companies linked to Israel during the Gaza conflict, a primary demand at various campuses nationwide.

Guided by their faculty adviser Christine Victorino, a former chief of staff for Wilcox, the students brought forth what they considered reasonable requests. A spokesperson for Riverside mentioned that Wilcox’s staff members were unavailable for an interview but referred EdSource to Victorino. Equipped with intricate knowledge of the chancellor’s office operations, she guided the students in proposing requests likely to succeed.

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