This week, the Cal Poly community reacted to the loss of innocent lives on both fronts of the Israel-Hamas War.
On Oct. 7, a day celebrating the Jewish holiday Simchat Torah, the armed wing of Hamas militants launched an attack on Israel. Two days later, Israel officially declared a state of war against Hamas.
On Thursday, from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m., students and other Cal Poly members filled a Fisher Science (BLDG 33) lecture hall. Attendees spilled into the hallway to listen to Cal Poly’s Religious Studies Chair Dr. Stephen Lloyd Moffett talk on the greater context and historical background on the war.
The conflict escalated over the week and caused fatalities on both sides, as international news outlets report live updates. The effects of the war reached many in the Cal Poly community.
“The first time I cried about it was when my mom sent me a picture of my two little cousins sitting in safe rooms,” business junior Ariel Avital said. “They are six and nine – so young; they don’t know what’s going on. It’s really heartbreaking.”
President Jeffery Armstrong issued a statement to the Cal Poly community, sharing why the university has not commented on the war.
“Our practice at Cal Poly is not to comment on current national and world events that do not directly impact a critical mass of our students and employees,” Armstrong wrote in the email.
The Cal Poly Office of Diversity and Inclusion (OUDI) issued a statement on the conflict via Instagram on Thursday.
“It is with great sadness and a hope for peace that we watch the violence and loss of life taking place in Israel and Gaza,” Diversity and Inclusion Interim Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Denise Isom wrote.
SLO Hillel began a petition, calling for the university to issue a statement in support of Jewish students and faculty.
“Silence is complicity – and is deafening to all who are in pain and feeling completely alone,” the petition said.
Many students echo this opinion, feeling like they aren’t being supported by the university.
“Instead of encouraging us to come together as a community, [Armstrong] encouraged us to realize that they don’t have our backs and that we have to form those communities ourselves,” bioresource and agricultural engineering junior Tova Loew said.
The Muslim Student Association issued an official statement via Instagram following Armstrong’s message.
“We share your concern for the ongoing crisis in Palestine,” the post read. “We condemn the unjust killing of all civilians. In a time where speaking the truth may be challenging, we stand firmly by the principles of justice.”
Following a vigil hosted on Monday by Jewish groups on campus – including Mishelanu, Chabad, Mustangs United for Israel, AEPi and SLO Hillel – the community organized a march in solidarity for Israel at Farmer’s Market on Thursday evening.
More than 100 students and community members attended. They shared stories, marched and sang the Israeli national anthem.
“I felt proud to be a part of a larger community, to be in a place where people understood the things I’m going through and proud to be fighting for peace,” Steph Sussman, an experience industry management junior and the president of Chabad, wrote to Mustang News.
Students are urging the community to unite and support each other.
“We all unite when conflicts happen and we’re just hoping for the world to come and support us,” Avital said. “I marched with BLM. I spoke out against the Iranian women’s rights issues. I’m just hoping that they’ll do the same for us.”
This is an ongoing story. Mustang News will update this article as we receive more information. If you have a story you’d like to share with Mustang News related to the Israel-Hamas War, please DM us on Instagram @cpmustangnews.
Editors note: This story was updated at 11:22 a.m. on Oct.13 to correct the date of the vigil hosted by groups on campus.
Correction: This story was corrected on Nov.1 to correct the name of the Jewish holiday taking place on Oct.7.