May 8, 2024 - News

How Chicago-area colleges have responded to pro-Palestinian protests

Photo of a line of police next to a line of protesters

University police are confronted by protestors as they block access to the main quadrangle on the University of Chicago campus while they break up a pro-Palestinian encampment Tuesday. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Protests against the Israel-Gaza war have erupted on local campuses, but universities and colleges haven't been uniform in their reaction.

Here are how protests have been handled at four Chicago-area institutions.

1. University of Chicago

Photo of an encampment and a sign that says "Divest Disclose Repair"
Makeshift fortification surrounds a pro-Palestinian encampment in the Main Quadrangle on the University of Chicago campus on Monday. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Early Tuesday, university police began to clear out an encampment on the school's quad, on the heels of president Paul Alivisatos' letter saying after negotiating with protestors, "a number of the intractable and inflexible aspects of their demands were fundamentally incompatible with the University's principled dedication to institutional neutrality."

Piece of white paper with black text called Final Notice to Students Participating in Encampment on Main Quad.
Photo: Courtesy of UChicago United for Palestine

The other side: "The administration hopes that nobody will pay attention to this because they did it at 4:40 in the morning. We will make sure that nobody forgets. We will all be back until UChicago divests, discloses, and repairs," UChicago United for Palestine organizer Youssef Hasweh said in a statement.

  • The group posted a photo on social media, warning that students who failed to evacuate would be placed on emergency leave of absence, forcing them out of campus housing and withdrawing from university activities.

2. School of the Art Institute

Photo of police arresting protesters
Police take demonstrators into custody on the campus of the Art Institute of Chicago on Saturday. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

After 68 protesters were arrested Saturday during a School of the Art Institute demonstration, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA, began a probe into a complaint that police officers had used excessive force, WTTW reported.

Yes, but: This protest took place not on a campus but on the grounds of the Art Institute.

3. DePaul University

Photo of protesters near police during a rally
Protesters, counter-protesters and police at DePaul in Lincoln Park on Sunday. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

After tense clashes Sunday involving protesters, counter-protesters and police, no arrests were made, and the encampment on the school's quad remains active.

The latest: University leaders responded Monday to the DePaul Divestment Coalition's demands, saying the school calls for "the release of all hostages and an immediate mutually agreed upon ceasefire to establish non-violent solutions on behalf of peace."

What they're saying: The Board of Trustees say they are open to creating an ethics advisory committee but stopped short of promising any divestments, the letter from DePaul leadership also stated.

4. Northwestern University

Protest signs saying "Ceasefire Now!" on a college campus
Tents at Northwestern University before negotiations ended the encampment in late April. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

The school reached an agreement that protesters would dismantle all tents but still be allowed to demonstrate on the quad.

  • University leaders also promised to re-establish an advisory committee on university investments that included students, faculty and staff.

What's next: President Michael Schill is scheduled to testify May 23 in front of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce in a hearing titled "Calling for Accountability: Stopping Antisemitic College Chaos."

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