Updated May 23, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Northwestern won't divest from Israel, university president tells Congress

Michael Schill, president of Northwestern University, testifies before Congress.

Michael Schill, president of Northwestern University, testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee on May 23, 2024. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Northwestern's administration won't divest from Israel, despite demands from pro-Palestinian student activists, the university's president told Congress on Thursday.

Why it matters: Northwestern was one of the first universities to reach an agreement with encampment protesters, whose principal negotiation terms included the university's divestment from academic and economic ties to Israel.

  • "I would never recommend to the Board of Trustees divestment of anything or any academic boycott of Israel," Northwestern president Michael Schill told Congress on Thursday.

Driving the news: "I rejected the main student demand for divestment, and will not ever recommend that Northwestern use its resources for political purposes," Schill said on Thursday.

State of play: The leaders of Northwestern, Rutgers and the University of California, Los Angeles testified Thursday morning in a Republican-led House committee hearing on antisemitism.

  • The premise and format of the hearing are similar to previous ones that included the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia. At Harvard and Penn, backlash to the presidents' testimonies led to their resignations.
  • Leaders of public school districts in Berkley, California, New York City and Montgomery County, Maryland, testified in a hearing held by the same committee earlier this month.
  • In all the hearings, legislators have questioned the education leaders on their response to reported rises in antisemitism on their campuses.

Zoom out: Pro-Palestinian protestors at UCLA demonstrated on Thursday as the university's chancellor Gene Block testified, according to the Daily Bruin.

  • On Instagram, the UCLA chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine called the protest a "second encampment."

Catch up quick: Pro-Palestinian encampments spread on college campuses across the U.S. following the testimony of Columbia University President Minouche Shafik in April.

  • At Northwestern, the agreement between the administration and the Northwestern Divestment Coalition was reached after five days of demonstrations, the Daily Northwestern reported.
  • At the time, Coalition negotiators ceded on demands for divestment but said the agreement provided "tangible steps" toward that goal.

Context: At Northwestern, students who participated in the previous encampment were not arrested, unlike at other universities across the country.

  • Sending law enforcement posed "too high a risk to our student, staff and police officers," Schill said. "There were limited law enforcement resources available to the university, and it also created — as we saw around the country — escalation, renewed encampments."
  • Nearly 3,000 people were arrested on at least 61 college campuses across the U.S. in April and May.

Go deeper: Endowment secrecy complicates campus "divestment" demands

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional developments.

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