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A screenshot of the TCSA's November 8th Instagram story with the caption "#boycottmcdonalds." Courtesy of Chukwugoziem Nwadugbo.

TCSA's Disregard for BDS Measures Against Israel Ignites Student Backlash

Written by
Chukwugoziem Nwadugbo
and
and
November 22, 2023
TCSA's Disregard for BDS Measures Against Israel Ignites Student Backlash
A screenshot of the TCSA's November 8th Instagram story with the caption "#boycottmcdonalds." Courtesy of Chukwugoziem Nwadugbo.

The Trent Central Student Association (TCSA)is the student association that represents the undergraduate student body at Trent. It has to represent the entire student population, hence the need to appeal to a broad range of people with different backgrounds, politics, and ideas. While I am disposed to assume this is a daunting task and can sometimes lead to a slip up, the Palestinian genocide is not one of those topics where the student union should be conflicted about. 

Bloodlines are being wiped out, pregnant women do not have the resources essential to ensure safe birth, children are actively growing up with emotional scars from this genocide as well as the physical impacts. It is completely inhumane to not show some sensitivity towards this situation. With an active student body that has rallied behind the pro-Palestinian movement as well as several departments organizing talks, you would assume the student association would make efforts to acknowledge and rally behind this movement.

Not taking a side is equivalent to taking the side of the oppressor, which is why we can’t stand back and not rally behind Palestinians to lobby our government officials to do the right thing and intervene to stop the violence. Interestingly, the TCSA has not done anything to rally behind the cause or create awareness about it, beyond releasing a non-committal statement. They have not held any talks, organized protests, or provided any type of support for students that might be affected by this conflict, and this is frustrating for many students.

A few weeks back, the TCSA was handing out free breakfast sandwiches and bagels from McDonalds, an action students were repulsed at. Without the resources to actively end a genocide, one of the tactics taken by people in support of a cause is boycotting brands that are supporting oppressors. One of the many brands that people are actively boycotting is McDonalds due to its support of the Israeli occupation of Gaza. They have actively supported the Israeli military by handing out free meals, and other forms of assistance, with these announcements being posted on their Instagram. 

A screenshot of the TCSA's November 8th Instagram story offering free breakfast sandwiches reposted by a student with the caption "#boycottmcdonalds". Courtesy of Chukwugoziem Nwadugbo.

Disgusted with their support of the killing of innocent people in Palestine, activists have called for the boycotting of the brand. A seemingly innocent activity, it is jarring that the TCSA would hand out food from a company that we should not be patronizing. Regardless of intent, the insensitivity of this action must be acknowledged.

Once attention was called to this, students began to repost a story on Instagram calling the TCSA “Tone Deaf Council of Selective Activists”. The TCSA was handing out free breakfast—which is a gesture that could be appreciated ordinarily—but in light of the Palestinian conflict, is tone deaf and very insensitive. This is one of the many frustrations that students I spoke to expressed about the TCSA. They are frustrated that the group has actively participated in social justice movements such as Pride, Truth and Reconciliation and the recent Canadian Federation of Students’ National Day of Action, but they have been radio silent on the Palestinian genocide. 

A screenshot of a student's story calling the TCSA a "Tone-deaf Council of Selective Activists." The story goes on to outlines ways for the Association to make material contributions to the Palestinian freedom movement. Courtesy of Chukwugoziem Nwadugbo.

Students expressed frustration to me at the TCSA calling out the university, at times positioning itself as supportive of student concerns, but refusing to take a stand on this conflict. When interviewing Shreyya, she expressed that the TCSA purchasing McDonalds made the situation “ten times worse” because she had reconciled herself to the fact that they were not going to come out and voice support for Palestine. However, it was a massive slap on the face to use funding received through student fees to purchase food from a company a lot of students have been loud about boycotting. This is why they describe the TCSA as performative and tone deaf—their silence on the Palestinian conflict is frustrating and the insensitivity of patronizing McDonalds further worsens it. 

Evidently, the TCSA was aware of how their actions were wrong (or they noticed the backlash),because they quickly took down the Instagram post. Clearly, they are aware of the insensitivity of their actions, and it begs the question why they made the decision in the first place. Students expressed to me that the TCSA is capable of changing the trajectory of the protests and spreading much needed awareness. They could organize talks, organize for people to write on the bridge as well as simply just showing solidarity. They could also extend some support to students affected by this conflict or provide some relief to people experiencing compassion fatigue. Shreyya concluded by saying that if the TCSA decides to take a stand with Palestine, she would only look at it with suspicion because it would be too little too late. She is disappointed with the TCSA, and this sentiment is shared by other students.

In solidarity with Palestine, a few brands that should be boycotted include McDonalds and Starbucks. Boycotting is perhaps the simplest way to support a cause. There are also multiple fundraising campaigns that have been started to provide aid to the people of Gaza, which everyone is encouraged to donate to. 

Another tactic we can take is to create awareness about these fundraisers through social media to reach new audiences.

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