FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
GMU Students to Walkout of Winter Graduation
Action Protests Shari Arison, Israeli Billionaire and Apartheid-Profiteer
Fairfax, VA, 17 December 2013
On Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 1:00pm, Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) will lead a walkout of George Mason University’s Winter Commencement ceremony at the Patriot Center on GMU’s Fairfax Campus. University administrators contacted Students Against Israeli Apartheid, responding to this public outcry. After a week-long period of discussion, the university met SAIA’s demand for accommodations for graduating students who did not wish to have their ceremony marred by Arison’s presence, and released the following statement: “Graduates seated on the arena floor will be able to leave through an exit at the rear of the hall. These individuals will be provided an option of waiting in a reserved room. (…) An event staff member will inform those waiting when the commencement speaker’s remarks have concluded. Graduates and guests can then re-enter the arena.” This is a historical opportunity for graduating students to demonstrate their commitment to human rights and stand in solidarity with the Palestinian students that have been personally affected by the on-going occupation of Palestine by Apartheid Israel. As the first campus that has resisted the Arison Group’s influence, Mason can set a strong precedent for rejecting the Arison Group’s whitewashing of Israeli Apartheid.
Shari Arison, owner of the Arison Group, is receiving an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters and speaking at the commencement ceremony. An open letter written by faculty sponsor Craig Willse and graduating SAIA President Tareq Radi that raised concerns about the Arison Group’s complicity in the occupation of Palestine and highlighted the hypocrisy of an apartheid-profiteer funding an endowed chair to teach “Doing Good Values” was widely read by the campus community. Many students, faculty, and staff who were previously unaware of the nature of the Arison Group’s involvement at Mason were outraged at the prospect of an apartheid-profiteer using the University as a publicity tool.
In the past two weeks, SAIA publicized Arison’s profiteering through a variety of methods. SAIA put up flyers with the slogans “Arison Investments: Colonizing Curriculum” and “No Honor in Apartheid” to resist the trend of privatization at the University and demonstrate how honoring Arison directly contradicts GMU’s new vision and guiding principles. On social media, SAIA utilized #arisonIDEA to show how apartheid would look on Mason’s campus. On the Fairfax campus’ North Plaza, SAIA constructed an eight-foot tall wall to further publicize the campaign. In combination with the open letter, these efforts sparked a discussion within the New Century College, the home of Arison’s endowed professorship. Dean Lisa Gring-Pemble called a meeting on Friday, December 6, for faculty and staff of NCC to air their concerns. As resistance against Arison’s role at George Mason mounts, these conversations are expected to continue.
Students Against Israeli Apartheid