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Arab Heritage Month Resolution Fails To Pass FSU Student Senate

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

Resolution 49, which would have recognized April as Arab American Heritage Month at Florida State University, failed to pass in the student senate on Wednesday, April 17. Renee Souvenir, the bill’s main sponsor, conducted a survey beforehand to assess the student body’s views on the Arab Student Union becoming an agency.

Souvenir surveyed Arab-identifying students about their feelings of representation on campus, and 69.2 percent of the 39 respondents said they felt strongly or slightly underrepresented. This percentage reinforces the importance of acknowledging Arab heritage and culture, which is pivotal in demonstrating support and fostering a sense of community among Arab students.

The resolution additionally states that Florida State University acknowledges the loss of 30,000 missing and dead Palestinians and urges for a cease-fire on the Gaza Strip and Rafah in solidarity with the Arab American community. According to Souvenir, who presented the bill in the Senate, most objectors argued that the wording was “too violent” and that the legislation “forced them to take a side.”

With Gaza’s death toll surpassing 30,000, Florida State University’s silence has become increasingly louder and clearer. On Oct. 7, 364 people were killed by Hamas at an Israeli music festival. Afterward, President McCullough sent a message to students and faculty to express his support and condemn the violence.

Yet FSU has refrained from addressing the ongoing violence, starvation, and horrific living conditions experienced by Palestinians in the last six months. Palestinians are victims of indiscriminate attacks carried out by Israel. Collective punishment is unjust and we cannot support violent and purposeful attacks on innocent people.

President McCullough has the ability to condemn violence on all sides, yet he chooses to exclusively stand behind Jewish and Israeli students. He is disregarding the Arab population at the university who are grieving their community and dealing with rising levels of hate speech. We must denounce all forms of hate speech. Addressing only one type of hate speech and violence neglects the other, overlooking a significant issue. As a leader on our campus, it is his responsibility to show compassion and provide support to students from all backgrounds.

Brooke Qassis, a master’s student in the College of Social Work, stated, “As a Palestinian student here at FSU, I am disheartened to see the explicit racism against the Arab community on campus. Arab Heritage Month celebrates the variety, culture, and history of Arabs and should not be interpreted as picking a side. We cannot continue to minimize the trauma Palestinians are facing daily during this time.”

Former Student Senate president Ahmad Daraldik also commented saying, “It’s a shame and a shock to see this institution continue to reinforce the hostile anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian environment that they are currently being investigated for by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.” 

By incorporating Arab Heritage History Month into university programs and projects, institutions demonstrate their dedication to diversity, inclusivity, and cultural understanding, thereby improving their entire community’s academic experience. Florida State University consistently neglects the Arab community and falls short of offering the necessary support to ensure Arab students feel safe and valued within a predominantly white university. 

As a soon-to-be Florida State alumni, I am disappointed by our university. Silence is complicity. I admire people like Renee Souvenir, who don’t back down from speaking up for what’s right. Their voices and actions make a significant difference in promoting fairness, justice, and integrity. To them, thank you for embodying the values that inspire all of us to strive for a better world. 

Although the resolution didn’t pass, there are numerous ways to celebrate Arab Heritage History Month, such as standing in solidarity and supporting Arab students on campus. Attend their events, amplify their voices, and engage in other supportive actions! Check out the Arab Student Union’s Instagram page here for upcoming events!

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Hello, my name is Cynthia, and I am a senior studying politics and sociology. I love to write and aspire to work as a political reporter.