University of Minnesota Senate Approves Ceasefire Statement, Calls For Release of Captives

The University of Minnesota Senate approved a “Position Statement in Support of a Ceasefire and the Immediate Release of All Captives” in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. The statement was passed late last week.

The statement ends by saying: “A ceasefire is the most viable first step to protect innocent civilian lives. It is incumbent upon the University of Minnesota and all its members to advocate for a lasting peace with freedom and dignity for all human lives. Therefore, as the elected representatives of the students, staff, faculty, and administrators of the University of Minnesota, we join the collective call for a ceasefire and the immediate release of all captives.”

“I think that the conversation in the senate was good and it was thoughtful,” said Dr. Elisia Cohen, the director of the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Minnesota, who is a member of the senate as well as a board member at Minnesota Hillel. “The students, I think, engaged in genuine consultation. And this was a diverse group of students who came together to talk about difficult issues and who probably don’t agree on many things.”

Cohen did not say how she voted or what the final vote was; the senate votes are conducted by secret ballot.

In a statement posted to its Facebook page, Minnesota Hillel said that while it “doesn’t agree with all the facets of the resolution and disagree(s) on some of its core tenets, we appreciate that the senate took the time to listen to a variety of voices throughout the process.”

“I do not believe that it’s the University Senate’s place to put things like this out, but I appreciate they went through a process, had a dialogue, and included things communities involved asked for,” said Benjie Kaplan, Minnesota Hillel’s executive director. “I don’t know how to achieve what they’re asking for, but it’s nice to see a campus where legislative bodies weren’t dominated by calls for partisanship, binaries, or divisiveness.”

John Grossman, one of the authors of the statement, said the work was done in the capacity of his position of the school’s undergraduate student government federal government affairs coordinator, a role he began last July.

“Throughout the process, we engaged in extensive consultation with a variety of student groups – with a particular focus on those representing Jewish, Palestinian, Muslim, Arab, and Israeli students,” Grossman said in an e-mail to TC Jewfolk. “I am glad that my co-authors shared the desire to ensure that no voices on our campus were excluded or de-prioritized while we worked on the position statement.”

The position statement comes five weeks after the U.S. Department of Education opened a Title VI investigation at the University of Minnesota amid complaints of antisemitism, and after a nationwide survey by the American Jewish Committee found that college campuses are not immune from antisemitism: 44 percent of Jewish college students have felt antisemitism.

In Hillel’s social media statement last Friday, the organization thanked the senate for acknowledging what started the current war – Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel – and acknowledging the number of Israelis killed and taken hostage. Kaplan said that early drafts of the statements did not include that. 

The senate statement had started going through the process in November, but it was sent to a committee to work its way through the legislative process. Kaplan said the statement wasn’t expected to come to the senate for a vote until its March meeting. 

“It does make a difference for the campus climate,” Kaplan said. “In this case, identifying big pressing things for Jewish/Israel community, and Palestinian/Arab/Muslim community.”

Grossman said that he hopes the statement will create a more supportive campus environment for all affected students – including Jewish students. 

“Since the university senate represents the university as a whole rather than just the student body, I and the rest of the co-authors hoped that passing a statement of this nature would be valuable to demonstrate the U’s values amidst intense international and domestic upheaval,” he said. “I have been consistently reminded of how many of our goals are shared and span divides of identity or ideology. We all want to see an end to the horrific destruction. We all want to see captives at home with their families. We all want to feel safe and respected on our campuses. I believe that this statement recognizes the real pain Jewish, Palestinian, Muslim, Arab, and Israeli students are facing right now and lays the groundwork for more productive and empathetic conversations at the U.”