Group of University of Chicago faculty defend pro-Palestinian encampment

UChicago gave a midnight deadline for students to remove their encampment before the school takes action, a faculty member said.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024
Group of UChicago faculty defend pro-Palestinian encampment
A group of University of Chicago faculty defended a pro-Palestinian protest encampment on campus and said they are prepared to get arrested.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A large group of faculty members from the University of Chicago defended a pro-Palestinian student encampment Monday morning, saying it's been peaceful and non-disruptive on campus.

The faculty said they are prepared to be arrested alongside student protester should that happen at any point this week.

This comes as the university has suspended negotiations with student protesters. Organizers met with the university Sunday and they could not come to an agreement.

A faculty member who said she was in the negotiation room said the University of Chicago made it very clear that midnight was the deadline for students to remove their encampment before the school takes action.

University of Chicago staff are demanding university leaders honor their commitments to free speech and campus safety by not authorizing police action against the student protesters.

Lukas, like dozens of other students, has lived in tents for more than week.

"So, I've been staying here," Lukas said. "It's just about long enough if I sleep at a little bit of an angle."

And after what demonstrators say were failed negotiations with the university's president on Sunday, those talks have hit an impasse.

SEE ALSO: Art Institute of Chicago no longer pursuing charges against 68 arrested at pro-Palestinian protest

"Despite the fact that every university in Gaza has been bombed, if we can't reach an agreement on these simple statements and facts, then it makes it very hard to move forward from there," Lukas said. "Anything that will reduce the civilian casualties is obviously good news, but as long as our university continues to invest in weapons manufacturers with invested interest with there not being a ceasefire - we will continue to be out here."

Word of a possible Israel-Hamas cease-fire was welcomed by many at the encampment on Monday.

"With that being said, a cease-fire does not meet our, it does not bear directly on our campaign. Our campaign is divestment from Israel," said Hassan, a UChicago student.

In their fight for the school to disclose its investments amid the war in Gaza, protesters say the university has only agreed to decreasing the presence of campus police and admitting Palestinian scholars in the school's at-risk program.

Some of those decisions, like less police, have been facing backlash from some Jewish students.

"They have said clearly that the encampment violates other students' abilities to freely express themselves and that it is hindering our learning and that it is time for them to go. But instead of making it go, they are negotiating with them.," said Tamar Chavel, a UChicago sophomore and a member of Maroons for Israel. "We're looking towards the administration to shut down the encampment, but also to then create space for dialogue afterwards."

Even in the wake of a possible cease-fire in the war, reportedly agreed to by Hamas, demonstrators say they will remain put with their resounding cry, now made even louder on Monday after more than 100 UChicago faculty and staff voiced their support for the ongoing demonstration.

"As faculty members, we will protect the safety of our students if the administration attempts to violently remove them," said UChicago Divinity School Asst. Instructional Professor Elham Mireshghi.

Should the university attempt to physically remove them, faculty and staff said they will protect the safety of their students.

"The use of police force on university campuses across America is a dangerous precedent to set for the future of our country," UChicago professor Allyson Nadia Field said. "The use of police force in these circumstances did not serve to protect, but rather to intimidate and silence."

"Our most immediate concern is for the well-being of our students," U of C professor Anton Ford said. We don't want them getting beat up just because they're camping on the lawn. Because we expected a raid last night, dozens of us were here, the majority came prepared to be arrested with our students."

Again, it's unclear how and when the university may intervene.

RELATED: UChicago pro-Palestinian encampment marks 1 week; tensions run high amid dueling protests at DePaul

And at DePaul University, one day after two people were injured during a counter-protest, ABC7 saw additional security guards at the encampment.

DePaul's president issued a statement, saying, in part, "the protest had become a magnet for others outside our community with nefarious intent," and adding, "I must emphasize the need for a timely resolution."

Meanwhile, Northwestern's president, Michael Schill, amid calls for his resignation over the agreement he reached to end that school's encampment, will testify before Congress at a hearing on antisemitism at colleges.

Northwestern issued a statement, saying, "We are confident in the actions we have taken to address antisemitism on our campus and President Schill looks forward to discussing them with the House Committee on Education and the Workforce."

That May 23 hearing could be contentious. The chair of that committee has criticized the Northwestern agreement, calling it a "shocking" concession.