It’s been more than 220 days of collective punishment levied against the Palestinian people. Over 35,000 people have been murdered by the illegal, Zionist occupation of Palestine. The University of Washington (UW) still refuses to acknowledge the genocide in Palestine, and instead joins the ranks of academic institutions repressing students for calling out their complicity.

The Popular University for Gaza in the Liberated Zone on the UW campus has packed up, but it didn’t fully deliver on its demands. Students, employees, and community members are continuing to act in solidarity with Palestine, and they are calling on the University to do the same. The following three demands are still relevant: 1) Materially and academically divest from ‘israel,’ 2) Cut ties with Boeing, and 3) End the repression of pro-Palestinian students, faculty, and community members. 

For the two weeks of its existence, the Liberated Zone quickly built momentum across campus. The Associated Students of the University of Washington passed a resolution carrying the demands of the zone with 89% affirmative votes. A petition created and shared after the launch of the Popular University for Gaza garnered over 3,800 signatures. Faculty wrote a letter of support for the occupation of the quad.

Despite this overwhelming support, UW President Ana Mari Cauce still won’t entertain the idea of cutting ties with Boeing, a transnational corporation that manufactures weapons. When publicly commenting on the topic of disentangling from Boeing, Cauce emphasizes her pride in the partnership. In an email on February 15, 2024, she said, “Other endowment sources cannot replace Boeing’s support for the UW in time, talent and funding, nor would we choose to sever our relationship if they could be.” 

In negotiating sessions with representatives from the Liberated Zone last week, Cauce cited the sentimental nature of UW and Boeing’s “100 years of partnership” as preventing her from taking action. Boeing’s B-29 Bomber, the aircraft used to drop nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was tested in the Kirsten Wind Tunnel in the 1940s. Referring to the relationship between UW and Boeing, Cauce stated, “Someone that you barely know does something pretty awful, you make one set of decisions. Someone that has been a close friend of yours ever since you were two does something pretty awful, you look at it a little bit differently.”

While Cauce waxes poetic about her institution’s “friendship” with Boeing, it’s worth analyzing the material impacts of this ongoing partnership with UW. UW helps launder Boeing’s reputation as a weapons company. Boeing’s revenue is about equally sourced from weapons production as it is from commercial manufacturing; the Department of Defense is its largest customer. Boeing locks students into multi-year contracts under UW’s supervision, but they are a company known for violating labor laws and intimidating whistleblowers. UW refusing to cut ties–even while Boeing is facing fraud charges from the Department of Justice, locking out its union safety workers amidst an international safety scandal (a door blew off mid flight, in case you hadn’t heard)–is evidence that the money Boeing provides is more important to UW than its students’ well-being. The benefits for the institutions go both ways: Boeing needs UW because it needs workers; creating a pipeline at the university is the best way to secure a steady stream of talent. 

Why does UW so desperately cling onto this relationship with a war profiteer? This issue speaks to a broader problem with our education system. Across the country, Universities–even public ones–are becoming increasingly privatized, reliant on exorbitant tuition fees, corporate donors, corporate-invested endowments, and–at UW in particular–revenues from expensive medical care to sustain regular operations and new projects. 

University administrations are not eager to meet the demands of students protesting for justice in Palestine because these demands threaten the very character of the institutions themselves. Cutting ties with Boeing at UW is about transforming the school to serve the interests of students and our society, rather than feeding the demands of the war machine. 

We will need continued community pressure, in addition to the ongoing powerful student movement, to succeed in striking this blow against the US war machine. There are several quick ways to add your voice to the movement demanding UW divest and end its complicity in the ongoing genocide. Use this tool to send emails to university leadership. Sign both the UF petition, and the Resist US-Led War petition demanding UW cut ties with Boeing. By standing united and strong with the community, we can make sure Cauce and UW think a bit harder about whose company they keep.

Zho Ragen is a recent PhD graduate from the University of Washington and organizes with Resist US Led War Seattle.

Cera Hassinan is a graduate student at the University of Washington and organizes with SUPER.