Ruya Hazeyen, president of UMass Amherst Students for Justice in Palestine, ignited controversy leading a sit-in protest against Israeli actions amid heightened tensions with Hamas.

Who is Ruya Hazeyen?

Ruya Hazeyen, a prominent figure at UMass Amherst, assumed a pivotal role as the president of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) during a recent sit-in protest. The demonstration, jointly organized with UMass Dissenters on October 25, 2023, sought to voice opposition to Israel’s actions in response to recent Hamas terror attacks and the ensuing “Swords of Iron” military operation.

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This protest, drawing participation from 57 students, unfolded prominently outside the office of Vice Chancellor Javier Reyes. The demands articulated by Hazeyen and her cohorts encompassed a call for UMass to divest and sever ties with entities supporting Israel’s actions in Gaza. Importantly, Hazeyen’s activism predates this event, with her having previously defended terror against Israeli civilians in an opinion piece for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian in April 2022.

Hazeyen, presently pursuing studies in Political Science and Middle Eastern studies, has been a key figure in UMass activism since September 2020. The campus experienced another pro-Palestine incident on November 27, 2023, when UMass professor Shai Gorsky, a leader in the Boston Logan International Airport protest, was arrested for disorderly conduct.

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The arrest of Gorsky heightened tensions on campus, further emphasizing the diverse perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the university community. Hazeyen’s outspoken stance and the subsequent controversy underscore the challenges faced by university administrations in managing geopolitical activism while ensuring the safety and inclusivity of the academic environment.