Mar 26, 2024 - News

USF students stage hunger strike for Palestine

students marching behind a sign reading "hunger strike for palestine"

USF student protesters marching on campus last week. Photo: Courtesy of Alina Atiq

Eight University of South Florida students have been starving themselves for over a week.

Why it matters: The group is demanding that USF call for a ceasefire in Gaza, divest from companies supporting Israel and publicize its investment portfolio. The school isn't budging.

Flashback: At a USF board of trustees meeting last week, a group of student activists questioned board chairperson Will Weatherford about the school's investments in Hewlett Packard, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Caterpillar.

  • Weatherford urged the students not to pursue the hunger strike, insisting the board doesn't directly invest in those companies, and that state law prohibits the school from making investment decisions based on politics.

What they're saying: "They (university leaders) publicly say they support student voices, that they're listening to student voices but we know they don't actually do that," student activist Ria Sanchez told Axios.

  • While some of the strikers are doing well and attending classes, Sanchez said others have suffered from heart palpitations, vomiting and significant weight loss. Ten students have dropped out of the hunger strike due to health concerns.
  • Strikers and pro-Palestine supporters will occupy the Patel Center building for an indefinite sit-in starting tomorrow morning.

The other side: "USF continues to have concerns about risks associated with this type of activity. The university will not be taking action on any of the group's demands," a USF spokesperson told Axios in a statement yesterday.

Zoom out: Other students starving themselves for the same cause so far haven't gotten what they wanted.

  • Brown University students with the same demands were stonewalled by the school after a weeklong hunger strike last month, which was joined in solidarity by students from six other universities
  • A student at McGill University in Canada was hospitalized yesterday after a 34-day hunger strike. Another McGill protester has not eaten in 23 days.

Go deeper: Axios Explains: Israel-Hamas war

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