The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

University President Responds to On-Campus Incidents Surrounding Israel-Hamas Conflict

Shanley emphasized a desire to make all students feel safe in first public comments on the situation.
Torch Photos / Sara Kiernan
Torch Design / Olivia Seaman

In an interview with The Torch, St. John’s University President Rev. Brian Shanley addressed recent on-campus incidents targeting Muslim students, expressing the University’s commitment to ensuring a safe and civil environment. He acknowledged that there have been challenges and emphasized ongoing efforts to maintain campus safety.

“The best thing for us is trying to take care of our people and focus on keeping our campus safe and civil as it can be in the midst of a difficult time for members of our entire community,” Shanley said. 

There has been a rise in on-campus incidents at St. John’s following the Israel-Hamas conflict that commenced on Oct. 7. 

On Oct. 30, a flier depicting a Hamas hostage was found outside the University’s Muslim Prayer Room in Marillac Hall, prompting a review by the University.

On Nov. 18, around 11 a.m., an unmarked truck entered the campus without authorization, parking near Marillac Hall. The vehicle displayed text saying “STAND WITH ISRAEL” and photos of Hamas hostages. 

The truck was promptly removed from campus “within minutes” once Public Safety became aware of the situation, according to University spokesman Brian Browne. 

The University conducted an investigation, confirming that the vehicle was unauthorized. The truck was let through because the University is an open campus, meaning the campus is open to the general public. Browne also said the University has “the resources of local law enforcement at our fingertips” and “a great relationship with NYPD,” trusting technology to help prevent any other incidents.  

“We have a lot of technology on campus, so it’s hard to get away with stuff,” Browne said. “We may not see it in real-time, but it’s always videotaped to go back to.” 

Shanley also said the University has been in touch with student groups about safety concerns on campus. 

“Behind the scenes, we’ve taken a lot of steps with the Muslim Students Association (MSA) and the Jewish Students Association (JSA), because there have been allegations from both communities about not feeling safe on campus,” Shanley said. “We want all of our students to feel safe on campus. And I think we’ve done a decent job of keeping the campus safe and civil.” 

Since Oct. 7, statements regarding the events in Gaza and Israel have been released by the deans of each academic college and the Vice President for Student Success and Retention Strategy Sarah Kelly. Notably, Shanley has not issued a statement on the matter. 

“It’s hard to think of a statement that’s really going to make a positive difference,” Shanley told The Torch. “At this point, I don’t anticipate sending a statement. All I want to do is help our campus to get through this difficult time.” 

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About the Contributor
Olivia Seaman, Managing Editor
Olivia is a junior journalism student serving her second year as Managing Editor. Outside of The Torch, she is a student ambassador and an Undergraduate Writing Consultant at the University Writing Center. You can find her with a matcha latte in hand, listening to SZA and watching St. John's basketball. Olivia can be reached at [email protected]

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