The University announced that there will be a series of programs dedicated to educating students, faculty and staff on recent conflicts in the Middle East. Three events have been announced and feature conversations on topics such as free speech and the history of global conflicts.
On October 7, Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza strip, launched an attack on Israel — since then, the conflict has escalated into a full-on war between Israel and Hamas, with the death toll climbing on both sides.
These events have been followed by activism from student groups on both sides of the conflict. Last Wednesday, students gathered at the Rotunda steps, calling for the University to acknowledge the crisis in Gaza and divest from military technology being used in the conflict. In the earlier days following the attack, hundreds of students gathered in the amphitheater for a community vigil in support of Israel.
Addressing motivations for these events, William Antholis, director and CEO of the Miller Center of Public Affairs and Class of 1986 alumnus, said that he wanted the University to remain a forum for free speech and diverse ideas, even in the wake of the recent conflict.
“My hope is that U.Va. will remain what it has been since I was an undergraduate — a place where people do the courageous work of sharing ideas across philosophies, research disciplines and schools,” Antholis said.
To further facilitate discussion of the conflict, the University held “Colliding Crises: The Israel-Hamas Conflict, the War in Ukraine and Geopolitics,” which took place Thursday, and “Understanding Global Conflicts and Exploring Possibilities for Peace” Friday. “Democracy Dialogues: Free Speech at Universities” is scheduled for next Thursday.
The Colliding Crises event took on a wider view of geopolitical conflict, encapsulating both the recent Israel-Hamas conflict and the war in Ukraine. Antholis was a speaker at the event and spoke about the significance of these recent conflicts, and how they impact University students in an email statement to The Cavalier Daily.
“The two combined conflicts are the greatest shocks to global security since at least 9/11, if not since the end of the Cold War or even the end of World War II,” Antholis said. “U.Va. students have a high privilege and responsibility to stay educated on global affairs.”
The group discussion at the event included Antholis, as well as other notable names such as former Virginia Gov. John Gilmore, former U.S. Ambassador Eric Edelman, Politics Prof. John Owen IV and more.
The Understanding Global Conflicts and Exploring Possibilities for Peace event, held at noon Friday in Garrett Hall, was hosted by Public Policy Prof. Paul Martin. For many years, Martin previously taught a capstone course on the historic conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. He hopes to analyze the United States’ response to that conflict as opposed to events in the Middle East.
The “Democracy Dialogues: Free Speech at Universities” event will be held at the Rotunda and virtually on Nov. 9 at 1 p.m., with an introduction from Provost Ian Baucom. Participants can register at this link.