Around 9:30 a.m. on April 25, Emory Police Department (EPD) officers warn protestors that they will begin arrests if they do not evacuate the Quadrangle (Jack Rutherford/News Editor).

As I write my final op-ed for The Emory Wheel after four years on the Editorial Board, it is with a heavy heart that I address the appalling mismanagement and moral failures that have unfolded on our campus, starting on April 25. Our community’s current atmosphere of fear and repression is profoundly distressing. For international students like myself, Emory University was supposed to be a safe space where I, coming from a background of political unrest in Nicaragua, could freely express my thoughts and advocate for my beliefs. Yet, I am compelled to be silent out of fear for my safety and potential deportation if arrested by the Emory Police Department (EPD) or other law enforcement agencies on campus. This is neither the freedom I sought nor the Emory I believed in.

The recent protests and subsequent violence compel us, as members of the Emory community, to examine the nature of student activism, academic freedom and institutional responses to conflict. This is a call for immediate action — specifically, for the University to engage in transparent dialogue with students and implement policy changes reflecting the students’ call for divestment — and for those in power to stand in solidarity with our community.

On April 25, students began peacefully protesting against Emory’s controversial investments in corporations with ties to Israel and the construction of the planned Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, known as “Cop City,” by setting up an encampment on the University Quadrangle. These demonstrations were met with shocking violence and police brutality, a response that demands a reevaluation of the University’s commitment to fostering a safe and open environment. Emory is meant to uphold these values for academic integrity and ensure its diverse student body, comprised of thousands of international students like myself from regions where such freedoms are suppressed, can be part of a community that prioritizes free expression and safety. This betrayal has not only disappointed me but also mirrored the oppressive environment we sought to escape by choosing Emory.

Protests at Emory rapidly deteriorated when University leadership summoned law enforcement, including the EPD, the Atlanta Police Department and Georgia State Patrol, as they released irritant gas on protestors and repeatedly tased a protestor. The disturbing videos of police officers arresting protestors are concrete proof of a broken system and an unjustifiable response from Emory and University President Gregory Fenves. To make matters worse, protestors have abundantly claimed law enforcement primarily targeted people of color and exercised more force on them.

Contrary to Fenves’ statement committing to facilitating peaceful expression, the University’s response was not just about maintaining order or safety. It was a reflection of a deeper, more prominent disregard for open dialogue and free expression that universities should facilitate. Fenves, in an attempt to justify the University’s response, initially misrepresented the protestors in communications to the Emory community, calling most of the protestors “outside agitators” and further escalating the situation. Fenves admitted this error four days later, but it was too late — his statements, inherently misleading and dismissive of student concerns, had already exacerbated the divide in our community.

In mere days, hundreds of Emory students are graduating, not on the familiar Quad but in a new off-campus location spurred by recent events. The irony of this change is not lost on us. The Quad, once a setting of joy and celebration for commencement, is now tainted with fear and disturbance. This change is yet another reminder of the recent violence under the University’s command and its consequences. It is difficult to imagine donning our caps and gowns in good conscience when our memories are overshadowed by such violence.

In light of these events, I call on faculty to lead by example. We cannot continue as if nothing has happened. Professors and administrators have the power to influence Emory’s policies and culture directly. I urge faculty to stand with students by suspending all class activities, canceling academic obligations as a form of protest and eliminating all pending assignments and final exams until there is substantive rectification of Emory’s ties to Israel and their response to the recent demonstrations. Some faculty members have already taken commendable steps to alleviate academic demands by extending deadlines, moving exams online or adopting an “A for All” policy, providing not only relief for students but also a strong message of support for student activists.

As we continue to navigate this movement, we must also remain cognizant of the broader global injustice in Gaza we are advocating for. While these protests push for a free Palestinian state, tragically, amid these events, there were also incidents of antisemitic graffiti on our campus. I unequivocally condemn these acts as they are wholly reprehensible and betray the fundamental principles of free speech. It is crucial to maintain a dual focus, advocating for change both within our university and in the broader political landscape, without losing sight of the communities and individuals most affected by the war. The commitment to centering this movement on the experiences of Palestinian students at Emory is a step in the right direction. As an international student from Nicaragua, where suppression of free speech is commonplace, Emory’s role in fostering worldwide dialogue and ethical leadership resonates deeply with me. This role is not just about educating. It is also about actively shaping a world that upholds justice and respect for diverse voices at its core.

As my time with the Wheel ends, this call for justice and reform is one of the most important messages I have had the privilege to write. We must continue to transform our grief and outrage into action. Let us unite to foster a community in which education and activism go hand in hand with empathy and community rather than violence and oppression. It is time for Emory to truly embrace the ideals it teaches.

Sara Pérez (24C) is from Managua, Nicaragua.

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Sara Perez (24C) is from Managua, Nicaragua, majoring in QSS on the Political Science track. Outside of the Wheel Editorial Board, you can catch her trying new coffee recipes and rewatching the same shows for the nth time.