We write in response to the distorted image of Yale we have seen in the press in the past week. Casual reading of the coverage of student activism on campus would create the impression that Yale has turned into a scene of open conflict. We are disturbed by anecdotes shared of some students remaining in their apartments out of fear of chaos on campus. Such fears are only stoked by alarmist language from University leadership in emails to the Yale community referencing investigation of “harmful acts” and “aggressors” on campus. 

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The protests in Beinecke Plaza calling for divestment from weapons manufacturers — and the nearby counterprotests in solidarity with Israel — have been attended by numerous Yale community members as well as New Haveners and have been marked by singing, marching, praying, teaching, art installations, acapella performances and dancing — not violence. 

Students, faculty, staff, community members of every age, faith and tradition or no tradition at all, have gathered in solidarity — with Palestinians or with Israelis — peacefully, while those uninvolved continued their usual business. 

For the past week and the past six months we’ve seen protests, marches, rallies, as well as courses, seminars, and panel discussions on campus from a variety of viewpoints involving hundreds, if not thousands of participants.  

Some Yale community members have been directly affected by the events of Oct. 7 and the subsequent war in Gaza. Some have had family members killed or taken hostage on Oct. 7, and others have had to deal with several generations of family killed in the bombing of Gaza. Still, the violence over there has not translated to violence here at Yale. Such claims are disingenuous and endanger us all.   

Social media hyperbole distorts the reality we see all around us. When distortions get amplified by mass media desperate for clicks, language gets heightened and nuance is lost. Accusations become “alternative facts” in the blink of an eye, creating an atmosphere of fear and hate that are fertile ground for real violence. This media atmosphere has led to a rise in Islamophobia and antisemitism which has already claimed victims: three university students wearing keffiyehs were shot while walking home this past Thanksgiving in Burlington, Vermont, and a landlord influenced by hateful rhetoric online murdered a 6-year-old Palestinian boy in Chicago. The high-profile crackdown on the largely peaceful on-campus protest at Columbia University has drawn out unaffiliated actors who hurled verbal abuse at Jewish students just outside the campus gates

While these off-campus actions have been condemned by universities, student protesters, and even the White House, there is little opprobrium for those provocateurs who seek division, conflate organized peaceful protest with mob riots, and criticism of policies with calls for violence or call for the National Guard to be deployed on American campuses.  

As Israeli- and Arab-American faculty members, we condemn any act of violence, intimidation or hatred at Yale or anywhere. All forms of hate are a scourge and anathema to the atmosphere of learning we strive for on campus. We call upon Yale leadership to fully investigate any acts reported. We also call upon our leaders to report back to our community with specific details of these incidents: What acts? What type? By whom? Numbers involved?  

Doing so clearly, without vague and ominous language, will help our community identify any real problems and give a sense of proportion to unfolding events that can’t be gleaned from the overheated discourse in social media, newspapers or cable networks. 

As physicians, we know that when symptoms appear, the biggest challenge is to decide what action to take. The right course can be to wait, evaluate, medicate or operate. Making the wrong decision can lead to disastrous consequences. Like physicians, educational leaders must also “first, do no harm.” In choosing to arrest students at Beinecke Plaza, we feel the Yale administration prescribed drastic treatment when none was indicated, making the environment on campus worse than before. 

The reality is that Yale is safe. 

Our students feel strongly about the issues. War is an issue of life and death. It is natural that students would use the tools and training they have received to speak and engage with the University and the broader community. As Dr. Gonsalves stated in his piece, “Protest on campus is part of higher education… It is preparation for citizenship and active participation in democracy.” University leadership and faculty can’t proclaim that in our mission “Yale educates aspiring leaders worldwide” and “affirm the commitment to robust free expression,” but then decry when students use their critical thinking and organizational talents to peacefully take stands for what they believe in — even if it makes the powerful uncomfortable.

Yale students have shown passion, creativity and stamina in speaking about the war, its antecedents and its impacts. Students are protesting to end Yale’s investments in the weapons of war — but we are not at war at Yale. 

To the contrary, we believe that Yale students and faculty have demonstrated an impressive capacity for passionate disagreement while maintaining a respectful and safe community. The distorted image we see portrayed in the media and battled out in editorial columns is unrecognizable to anyone who has attended these events on campus and don’t do justice to our community. 

What the media and others have described going on in New Haven? It’s not our Yale. 

HANI MOWAFI is an Associate Professor, Chief of the Section of Global Health in the Department of Emergency Medicine and he serves as the Director of the Yale-London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Fellowship in Global Health and International Emergency Medicine. Contact Dr. Mowafi at hani.mowafi@yale.edu.

NAFTALI KAMINSKI is the Boehringer-Ingelheim Endowed Professor of Internal Medicine and Chief of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, at Yale School of Medicine. Contact Dr. Kaminski at naftali.kaminski@yale.edu.