GUPS Leads Mural Push
February 11, 2007 11:51 PM
The General Union of Palestine Students started an online petition last weekend, calling for support of a controversial mural that SF State President Robert Corrigan blocked last summer.
Ramsey El-Qare, a GUPS representative, hopes that strength in numbers will weaken one man’s veto against the creation of what is possibly the first Palestinian mural on any U.S. campus.
In July 2006, the Student Center Governing Board, or SCGB, approved a Palestine mural proposed by GUPS, but members from both groups said Corrigan shortly thereafter placed a moratorium on all new murals. In rebuttal, GUPS is spreading the word through Web sites, petitions and public announcements.
"As far as I can tell, Corrigan is the only person I can think of that doesn't approve of the mural," said El-Qare.
GUPS created a MySpace page and recently produced an online petition in addition to their physical petition, which has an estimated 1,500 signatures.
El-Qare said he anticipates a few thousand more signatures and hopes to present the community’s support to Corrigan by the end of the semester.
While petition numbers show support, some students, such as Phil Haggardy from the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity at SF State, do not.
"I would do anything in my power to stop the mural from going up," said Haggardy, 18, a freshman in political science and religion. "I can guarantee the rest of the fraternity feels the same way."
Fred Astren, a professor of Jewish studies, said the Arts Committee received letters of concern from the Israel Coalition about the mural’s content and presented them during meetings prior to SCGB’s vote. Astren said he believed the system was flawed because the letters did not receive response and were not reported to the SCGB during the voting process, but the mural has the potential to be a great opportunity for SF State.
Mirishae McDonald, a member of the Student Center Governing Board and chair of the Palestinian Mural Committee said the design's controversy might revolve around “Handala,” a cartoon character representing "the Palestinian right of return."
She said Corrigan indicated Handala was the contentious issue by sending SCGB letters with pictures of Handala throwing rocks that turned into bombs and she said he did not site sources. She said Corrigan lacked transparency from the beginning.
"How many letters have I written and how many responses have I gotten that don't even clarify anything?" said McDonald, 28, a senior in political science.
The minutes of an SCGB meeting in September 2006 showed that Hector Cardenas, a SCGB member and ASI vice president of external affairs, proposed that Corrigan’s concerns were based more on finite space in the Cesar Chavez Student Center and the process of acquisition.
Executive Director Alon Shalev of San Francisco Hillel wrote in an e-mail that he feels the vast majority of Jewish students do not object to the mural itself. He wrote that he feels the objections are focused on specific symbols correlated to Handala and the objects in his hands.
El-Qare also spoke at a Jan. 27 antiwar protest to raise awareness, and plans on making more public announcements. He said he hopes to show Corrigan that GUPS isn’t the only group that disagrees with his decision.
"What we're facing is a content-based discrimination, and we have a lot of community support,” he said.
For more information, visit www.myspace.com/gups or www.SFGUPS.org.
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