GPSS passes resolution supporting Iranian protesters
On Dec. 1, the Graduate & Professional Student Senate passed a resolution condemning Iranian government violence in the face of civil protest. The statement was passed in solidarity with MENA, PSA and YCC.
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Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, was killed after being arrested by Iranian “morality police” for wearing skinny jeans and an “incorrect” hijab on Sept. 16. In response, protests and backlash regarding women’s rights in Iran have rocked the country for months.
The Graduate & Professional Student Senate’s most recent resolution comes in response to the wave of protests, which have brought Iranian government violence into international attention. The resolution aims to support Iranian students, staff and faculty and their families. The GPSS also intends to signal to Yale administration about their responsibility to support academic freedom.
The resolution reads, “the GPSS calls for the University to exceed its previous statement and commit to specific actions supporting Iranian members of the Yale community and those with close familial ties to Iran.”
Earlier this fall, almost 500 Yale faculty members signed a letter requesting the University denounce Iranian state violence. Yale became the first Ivy League university to do so on Nov. 9, when University President Peter Salovey publicly condemned the discriminatory violence.
“I stand with all those who are courageously seeking to protect women’s rights and human rights,” Salovey wrote in the statement.
The GPSS, however, felt Salovey could have gone further.
GPSS President J. Nick Fisk GRD ’23 wrote to the News that Salovey’s statement was not circulated broadly enough, noting the limited viewership of the Belonging at Yale website. Fisk also called the statement “unambiguous in its position of support, but vague on the particulars of their commitment,” which they say differ from the University’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.
Fisk added that they believed administrative staff were actually taking “admirable and empathetic” actions in their conversations with individual students. However, they noted that the limited scope of President Salovey’s message left many confused as to whether the University itself was taking any action.
The GPSS statement was written in solidarity with a number of campus groups whose voices and needs informed its contents. GPSS DEI co-chair Andre Gilford DIV ’24 noted that some of these groups included the North African Student Association, the Persian Student Association and the Yale College Council.
“The resolution was written in consultation with the efforts of these organizations and our student senate leadership to stand in solidarity with the efforts of student activists raising awareness and pushing the university to address the issue directly,” Gilford said.
Gilford and Fisk, as well as the rest of those involved in amending and discussing the resolution, hoped that the statement would press the University to take “tangible action” to support affected communities.
Fisk added that another throughline in their conversations with community members was a desire to involve scholars in Iran as well as those who study the nation, though they noted the concern that doing so would be difficult due to Iran’s authoritarian government.
Other priorities in the statement include the dissemination of information, waiving certain immigration fees requirements, offering financial support to protesters and scrutinizing Yale’s possible fiduciary relationships with the Iranian government or state-involved institutions.
“Ultimately, the problem is bigger than a student government … It is unlikely our actions will even reach the ears of those perpetrating violence,” Fisk said.
Nevertheless, they noted that their goal was to get the attention of people who might be able to do something to ameliorate the unrest.
They explained, additionally, that Yale is uniquely home to experts on Iran who have lived through and learned about conditions in the country. Fisk expressed hope that some of the “generative programming” called for in the resolution would bring such individuals together from far-flung corners of the University.
“In coordination with President Salovey’s office, the Office of International Students and Scholars has taken steps to support our current Iranian students and scholars to make sure they know that Yale is here for them during these difficult times, ” Secretary and Vice President for University Life Kimberly Goff-Crews ’83 LAW ’86 wrote in an email to the News.
She also noted that administrators have made an effort to talk with affected students and provide access to a range of resources. She also pointed to Yale application fee waivers already in place for prospective students.
The GPSS convenes every other Thursday at Gryphon’s Pub.