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Public comment at WMU Trustees' meeting focuses on the war in Gaza

A crowd sitting in five rows of chairs in a ballroom with chandeliers. Rows are almost entirely full. Ten men and women are sitting at the front facing the crowd.
Jessi Phillips
Western Michigan University's Board of Trustees met Thursday in Heritage Hall.

The board voted to raise tuition for the upcoming academic year. But public comment was dominated by concerns about the university's decision not to take a stance on the Israel-Hamas war.

Western Michigan University’s Board of Trustees voted Thursday to increase in-state undergraduate tuition by 4.5 percent. The board raised tuition at about the same rate last year. It also voted to raise room and board by 5 percent.

The meeting concluded with over an hour of public comment regarding the university’s response to Israel-Hamas war. More than a dozen speakers gave comments. All but one urged the school to take a stronger public stance against Israel’s actions in Palestine.

Representatives of the WMU Divestment Coalition as well as members of the community spoke at the meeting. They included Kalamazoo City Commissioner Don Cooney. He urged Western to publicly call for a ceasefire.

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal,” he said. “We have reached that time. We ask you to act. The children of Gaza implore you to act.”

President Edward Montgomery addressed speakers' concerns at the end of the meeting. He said that taking a public stance on a political issue could alienate those with opposing views.

“When the university weighs in on one perspective, we run a material risk of silencing some portion of the discourse we are in fact charged with fostering,” he said.  

Montgomery said the administration will continue dialogue with students about their concerns.