Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

On Friday morning, I got on my regular Shuttle-UM bus, and noticed a seat at the front of the bus reserved in honor of Rosa Parks Day.

As the sign read, “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in,” I reflected on her words. But beyond her words, I reflected on the University of Maryland honoring her and her protest. I thought about her legacy and that of boycott movements throughout history.

We praise and celebrate civil rights activists and anti-apartheid activists, here at this university and globally. But we celebrate them in hindsight.

We named the public policy school after Thurgood Marshall. But we only did it in 2023 more than 90 years after he was unable to apply to this very university because he was Black.

Institutions in this country celebrate these activists and honor these advocates and act as though they were on the right side of history alongside them. They were not.

They, in fact, stood in opposition to student activists who were under constant threat. It was not these institutions that made them successful, but it was student resistance and strength in the face of institutional intimidation.

In 1989, it took years of student organizing, protesting and campaigning to get this university to divest from companies supporting apartheid in South Africa. It took legal challenges, arrests and student resistance against this university’s administration before change happened.

In the last month, students at this university protested the Israeli aggression that has killed 16,200 Palestinians and counting since Oct. 7. They used chalk to protest and call for a permanent ceasefire. This university then restricted chalking. Students chanted through microphones and megaphones, calling this university to divest from companies with ties to Palestinian oppression. The university then restricted amplified sound.

Over and over again this university seems to enact policy after policy to restrict the calls of anti-war protesters.

So, forgive me if I feel this university’s way of honoring Parks is performative.

When we remember Parks, we remember the movement and the people behind and ahead of her. We remember how she and her colleagues faced 13 months of legal challenges, harassment and violence during the boycott before segregation on buses was finally outlawed.

The recent student protests on campus have called for an end to the Israeli genocide of the Palestinian people in Gaza. This university’s reaction has been to further suppress their means of protest, showing that our institutions, and this university alike, still continue to resist protecting activists like Parks.

The same intimidation tactics used against activists during the Montgomery bus boycott continues to be used today to silence the Palestinian movement.

In Maryland and many other states, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israeli apartheid is illegal. Palestinians and pro-Palestinian activists are constantly being censored and under threat of violence, doxxing and intimidation. All across the country, student organizations have been suspended from schools, people are fired from their jobs and kids are killed in their homes.

At this university, a coalition of student organizations has called on it to divest from companies with direct ties to Israeli apartheid. If our administration truly wants to commemorate Parks, it cannot continue to enable global segregation — the exact cause she organized and dedicated her life to ending. It is entirely hypocritical to commemorate her through empty words and gestures when student tuition dollars continue to be used to make this university’s entire population financially complicit in the same crimes that we celebrate Parks for fighting against.

Honoring Parks’ legacy means looking at how this university and institutions across the country went wrong in the past — during Parks’ time, during South African apartheid, during Thurgood Marshall’s time, during the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War. And I ask: how many more wars?  Honoring her legacy means rectifying those mistakes and ensuring that we do not continue to fund the same mistakes we have in the past.

This university successfully divested from South African apartheid in 1989, a cause that draws numerous parallels to the apartheid that Palestinians have lived under during more than 75 years of occupation. University president Darryll Pines himself was an anti-apartheid activist, so today, as he leads this university, I call on him to take action against Israeli apartheid and divest, as he himself called for divestment in the 1980s.

It is no honor to Parks’ legacy when we know this university has learned nothing from its past.

What we must truly remember is that our remembrance of Parks is as empty as that seat on the bus if we cannot break the chains of this country’s history that have bound this university to echoes of apartheid and segregation.

Imaan Shikoh is a junior public policy major. She can be reached at