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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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BDS protesters interrupt Crosby Hall reopening ceremony

UB Foundation “is not currently contemplating divestment,” spokesperson says

Officials and speakers listen while a SUNY BDS protester reads a letter directed at UB President Satish Tripathi.
Officials and speakers listen while a SUNY BDS protester reads a letter directed at UB President Satish Tripathi.

As UB officials and speakers posed for a ribbon cutting at Thursday’s Crosby Hall reopening ceremony, two protesters walked to the front of the packed room with a letter in hand. 

The protesters stopped in front of a stone-faced UB President Satish Tripathi, who was flanked by UB administrators and other speakers, and read the letter, which demanded he push for SUNY and the UB Foundation to divest from Israel and stop “funding the mass murder, injury, detention and displacement of Palestinian civilians.”

After reading the letter to Tripathi, the protesters left, shouting, “Free, free Palestine.” Tripathi then handed the letter to a staffer, smiled for the cameras and cut the ribbon.

In addition to the letter, the protesters presented Tripathi with a petition from the SUNY Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement demanding SUNY divest from Israel. The petition was signed by 2,641 people across the SUNY system, 207 of whom are affiliated with UB.

The ceremony was a celebration of Crosby Hall’s reopening after two years and $28 million of renovations. It included several ribbon cuttings, as well as speeches from Tripathi, Julia Czerniak, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning; Robert Haelen, general manager of the State University Construction Fund; and architecture graduate student Madeleine Sutton. 

Speakers cited the building as an exemplar of UB’s work toward sustainability and historic preservation.

Prior to the start of the ceremony, five demonstrators picketed outside the event on behalf of UB’s chapter of SUNY BDS. 

BDS protesters setting up

Protesters set up a banner before the event. Five protesters picketed the outdoor portion of the event.


The group held signs and shouted claims, including, “Dr. Tripathi, not a dime, embezzlement is a crime,” while officials staged a ribbon cutting outside the building. The protesters did not offer any evidence to substantiate claims of embezzlement.

Officials then went inside, and speeches began at 1:38 p.m. The two protesters interrupted the ceremony after speeches had ended, as officials were preparing for another ribbon-cutting photo op inside.

While a protester read the letter, one audience member said, “free the hostages.”

The SUNY BDS letter referred to a Oct. 10, 2023, statement in which Tripathi condemned Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. In that statement, Tripathi wrote, “we continue to pray for an end to the bloodshed, and for enduring peace and stability in the region.”

“We do not see you taking action to back up these prayers for peace,” the SUNY BDS letter reads. “Your administration, as well as the Chancellor and Vice Chancellors of SUNY, have expressed support for a plausible genocide as determined by the International Court of Justice.”

The letter, composed by SUNY BDS, echoes a statement published by UB’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine ahead of last Tuesday’s protest on North Campus last Tuesday, March 5. That statement set a deadline of Monday, March 11, for UB administrators to respond. The administrators did not publicly respond by that deadline.

In a statement sent to The Spectrum after the incident, a UB spokesperson wrote that the UB Foundation “is not currently contemplating divestment.”

Alluding to calls for increased transparency surrounding the foundation’s investments, the statement noted that “in supporting UB’s mission, [the UB Foundation] exceeds the standards of transparency and accountability required by New York State and federal law.” As a private nonprofit, the UB Foundation is not subject to the same disclosure requirements as the university.

“The University at Buffalo is heartbroken by the tragic loss of life and immeasurable human suffering witnessed by the world amid the crisis in the Middle East,” the statement reads. “The university is committed always to ensuring a welcoming, inclusive, respectful and safe environment where all students, faculty, staff and visitors are free to discuss issues related to the war without fear of violence, harassment or intimidation.”

The statement also says that the university will take “immediate action” against any discrimination and harassment.

The UB spokesperson referred to a SUNY policy prohibiting disruptive protests, adding, “it is our expectation that protests occur lawfully in public spaces, and will not disrupt or prevent the orderly conduct of classes, lecture and meetings.”

UB’s chapter of SUNY BDS held its first meeting, a webinar watch party, on Tuesday, Feb. 27, in Crosby Hall, as part of a statewide “launch event.”

Read UB's full statement

Read SUNY BDS’s open letter to Tripathi

Sol Hauser is the senior news editor and can be reached at sol.hauser@ubspectrum.com

The news desk can be reached at news@ubspectrum.com

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