A Guide to University Statements on Anti-Israel Campus Protests

Some colleges have stamped out tent encampments expeditiously, while others have fanned the flames

New York University (NYU) students and faculty protest Israel's war in Gaza (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
May 1, 2024

Student protesters have erected more than 100 "Gaza Solidarity" tent encampments on college campuses across the United States in recent weeks. College presidents and provosts from coast to coast have issued statements addressing the disruptions. Some of them have stamped them out expeditiously, while others have fanned the flames.

Below we present those statements—the good, the bad, and the ugly.


The Good

University of Texas at Austin

School officials swiftly called police after protests began, and officers arrested protesters for trespassing and disorderly conduct.

"UT Austin requested backup assistance from the Texas Department of Public Safety to protect the safety of the campus community and enforce our Institutional Rules, such as the rule that prohibits encampments on campus," the university said in a statement.

"Because of the encampments and other violations of the University’s Institutional Rules related to protests, protestors were told repeatedly to disperse. When they refused to disperse, some arrests were made for trespassing. Others were arrested for disorderly conduct."

Northeastern University

Northeastern administrators warned protesters to leave a campus encampment. After they refused, 98 students and 6 staff members were detained. Police cleared the encampment.

"Those who refused to leave were detained by police. Students who showed a valid Northeastern ID before arrest were released and will face disciplinary proceedings in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct," provost David Madigan and chancellor Ken Henderson wrote on April 29. "Those not affiliated with Northeastern, or who refused to show identification, were arrested."

"According to the official police report, 98 individuals were arrested, including 29 Northeastern students and 6 Northeastern faculty and staff."

"The escalation of tensions on Friday night made it necessary to restore civility and ensure that our campus is a place where all students—including the more than 8,000 who are celebrating their commencements this week—can share in full and free access to space and facilities."

University of Florida

UF has taken a harder stance against the encampments than other schools. Nine protesters were arrested on April 29.

"This is not complicated: The University of Florida is not a daycare, and we do not treat protesters like children—they knew the rules, they broke the rules, and they’ll face the consequences," university spokesman Steve Orlando said.

"For many days, we have patiently told protesters—many of whom are outside agitators—that they were able to exercise their right to free speech and free assembly."

University of North Florida

On April 30, less than two hours after protesters created an encampment on campus, police ordered them to leave and dismantle the tents or face arrests and suspensions. The students complied. The school’s administration has yet to release a statement.

Ohio State University

OSU released a statement saying encampments aren’t allowed for any reason. They then began arresting those who did not comply.

"As a public university, demonstrations, protests and disagreement regularly occur on our campus—so much so that we have trained staff and public safety professionals on-site for student demonstrations for safety and to support everyone’s right to engage in these activities," president Ted Carter wrote in an April 29 statement. "Sadly, in recent days, I have watched significant safety issues be created by encampments on other campuses across our nation. These situations have caused in-person learning and commencement ceremonies to be canceled. Ohio State’s campus will not be overtaken in this manner."

"We have been abundantly clear in a multitude of communications that Ohio State has and will enforce the law and university policy, which is what we did on April 25. I most recently stated this in a campus message on April 22."

"The university’s long-standing space rules are content neutral and are enforced uniformly. Thursday’s actions were taken because those involved in creating the encampment on the South Oval were in violation of these rules and had been notified of this beginning at 4:30 a.m., when the first encampment was attempted, and continuing repeatedly throughout the day."

"At approximately 5:30 p.m., a group of more than 300, many of whom were not students, faculty or staff at Ohio State, crossed College Road to the South Oval and set up an encampment. Over the next five hours, the group proceeded to establish and build upon the encampment, while being repeatedly warned that this was prohibited."

"The Ohio State University Police Division was the lead agency, and after numerous warnings, the university made the decision to begin arrests. At approximately 10 p.m., law enforcement began the process of arresting and charging individuals with criminal trespass for knowingly violating university policy and police orders. Encampments are not allowed on campus regardless of the reason for them."

George Washington University

The George Washington University police department called on Washington, D.C., police to help relocate the encampment. The school vowed to enforce time, place, and manner restrictions on protests and initiated "academic and administrative consequences" for those who refused to abide by the rules. D.C. police declined to assist in the endeavor.

"The George Washington University will continue to uphold the right of all our community members to freely express their views and to foster dialogue in a way that models productive disagreement. We will also insist that protestors meet their responsibility to university policies that prohibit the disruption of the normal academic activities of our community—the vast majority of whom are not protesting," president Ellen Granberg wrote on April 25. "Occupying campus grounds, establishing outdoor encampments, and blocking access to buildings create safety concerns and can disrupt learning and study, especially during this critical final exam period. Such activities are inconsistent with the university’s mission, values, and commitment to providing a safe environment for all students and employees."

"As we have always done, we will allow GW students an appropriate place for their protest within the defined limits of free expression at GW. However, we will not allow students from other local colleges or unaffiliated individuals to trespass on our campus. We can and will enforce the time, place, and manner restrictions that continue to govern activities on our campus."

"On Thursday, when the demonstrators refused multiple times to relocate, GWPD requested the assistance of the DC Metropolitan Police Department to provide additional support related to the demonstration."

"As far as the university is aware, there have been no incidents of violence. However, as the first evening progressed and the crowd on University Yard grew larger, our priority became safeguarding our community and implementing the safest resolution possible with the personnel and resources GW had available," Granberg wrote three days later. "With this in mind, the university focused on limiting access to University Yard as protestors departed, without resorting to forcible relocation, and on initiating academic and administrative consequences for those who continued trespassing on GW property."

Cornell University

School officials, led by president Martha Pollack, asked student protesters to move to a neutral space. When they refused, Cornell suspended encampment participants and issued a statement lamenting anti-Semitic chants heard on campus.

"We have issued immediate temporary suspensions for several student participants in the encampment, and are preparing to issue additional suspensions, as well as referrals to HR for employee participants," vice president for university relations Joel Malina wrote on April 27. "We have similarly suspended the student group that submitted an application for an event under false pretenses, stating that it would not include tents and would end at 8 p.m. None of these students have been denied housing or dining privileges, nor access to student health services.

"We are also deeply distressed by chants made at some of the rallies near the encampment, particularly the phrase, 'There is only one solution: Intifada Revolution.’ The protesting group has repeatedly stated that their protest is political and not antisemitic, but these chants belie that claim. We implore all Cornellians to consider the impact of their words as well as their intentions as we navigate the immense pain and suffering that many are experiencing."

Princeton University

The Princeton administration said encampments are "inherently unsafe" and vowed to arrest, suspend, or expel those who defied school rules. Police arrested 13 protesters Monday evening.

"In addition to disrupting University operations, some types of protest actions (including occupying or blocking access to buildings, establishing outdoor encampments and sleeping in any campus outdoor space) are inherently unsafe for both those involved and for bystanders, and they increase the potential for escalation and confrontation," vice president of campus life W. Rochelle Calhoun wrote on April 24. "They are also inconsistent with the University’s mission and its legal obligation to provide a safe environment for all students and employees."

"For those reasons, among others, our policies explicitly prohibit such conduct, and I want to be sure you understand that we will act promptly in order to address it. Any individual involved in an encampment, occupation, or other unlawful disruptive conduct who refuses to stop after a warning will be arrested and immediately barred from campus."

"For students, such exclusion from campus would jeopardize their ability to complete the semester. In addition, members of our community would face a disciplinary process (for students this could lead to suspension, delay of a diploma, or expulsion)."

University of Connecticut

Twenty-three protesters were arrested at the University of Connecticut on April 30. Police dismantled the encampment, which protesters first created on April 24.

"The group was warned multiple times over a period of days that while they were free to be in the space and exercise their free speech rights, the guidelines needed to be followed and the tents needed to be taken down. This was ignored," university spokeswoman Stephanie Rietz said in an April 30 statement.

"UConn Police directed them four times on Tuesday morning to remove the tents and disperse, and they again repeatedly ignored the directives. Officers then entered the site to remove the tents and tarps, and to arrest those who refused compliance."

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame quickly quashed an attempted tent encampment on its campus. Police confiscated tents during the first day of the protest. Then, protests continued peacefully without tents for a short time afterwards before protesters dispersed.

In a statement to The Observer, university officials said they welcome "students’ voices on issues and causes they care about" but have "rules in place that govern when, where, and how gatherings and demonstrations can happen."

"This evening a small group of students attempted to pitch tents on the South Quad," the statement read. "After being reminded by University officials that tents are not permitted, Notre Dame Police confiscated the tents. The students continued their gathering peacefully and eventually dispersed."

University of Southern California

Ninety-three protesters were arrested on the same day an encampment was constructed. Tents were removed by police.

"These past few weeks have been incredibly difficult for all of us. As your president, my responsibility is to uphold our Trojan values so that everyone who lives, learns, and works here can have safe places to live, learn, and speak," president Carol Folt said on April 26.

"This week, Alumni Park became unsafe. No one wants to have people arrested on their campus. Ever."

"But, when long-standing safety policies are flagrantly violated, buildings vandalized, DPS directives repeatedly ignored, threatening language shouted, people assaulted, and access to critical academic buildings blocked, we must act immediately to protect our community."


The Bad

Harvard University

Harvard's dean, Thomas Dunne, warned students in two separate emails that "disciplinary consequences" were imminent, but it is unclear whether Harvard has begun that process.

"Those participating in the ongoing encampment and associated activities will face disciplinary consequences as outlined in existing policies. Repeated or sustained violations will be subject to increased sanctions," Dunne wrote in an April 27 email to students, adding the encampment has "taken over and occupied a central space in Harvard Yard" and caused noise disruptions during "a critical juncture in the academic year when students study and prepare for examinations and complete end-of-term projects."

New York University

The NYU administration told protesters to take down tents. Some complied. Others chose not to leave. The school tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with the remaining protesters. A disciplinary process is underway.

"NYU representatives engaged in many hours of discussion over Saturday, with support from several members of the faculty, in exchange for a commitment from the students that they would leave. The students failed to honor that promise," spokesman John Beckman wrote in an April 29 statement. "Ultimately, no agreement was reached that day because at the 11th hour, others, including, we believe, outsiders, insisted that all demands must be met as well.

"Despite that 11th-hour reversal, we re-engaged again yesterday. By Sunday night, we presented the protesters with two options to which they were originally supposed to respond by 11:00 pm and which we extended until noon today:

"#1: The protesters agree to end the overnight stays on the Greene St. Walkway and all overnight supplies must be removed. We gave students an opportunity to leave the Walkway without consequences and to continue a dialogue with them about their concerns.#2: If the protesters chose not to end the overnight stays, there would be no more dialogue and the University would need to move forward on conduct charges.

"The students have not responded, and they have remained at the site. Accordingly and regrettably, NYU is moving forward with disciplinary processes."

Purdue University

Purdue administrators accused protesters of violating "camping" policies and threatened "disciplinary proceedings" after an encampment had been established for nearly a week.

"This rule is not merely a reasonable regulation to ensure the University complies with building and fire codes, but it also exists for individual safety reasons, since the drilling of stakes into the ground, for example, runs the risk of a utility line rupture that can be extremely hazardous to demonstrators and passers-by alike," associate dean of students Jeffrrey Stefancic wrote in an April 29 email.

"This structure continues to be in violation of University policy and must be disassembled."

Stanford University

Stanford officials distributed letters to protesters informing them that their encampment was in violation of school policies and could lead to arrests.

"Last night after 8 p.m., university staff handed out letters signed by the two of us to approximately 60 students who remained on White Plaza, notifying them of the university policies they were violating," president Richard Saller and provost Jenny Martinez wrote on April 26.

"These letters informed students that failure to cease conduct in violation of university policy would result in a referral to the Office of Community Standards (OCS) student conduct process and also could result in arrest if laws are violated."

University of Michigan 

Shortly after students established an encampment, university officials deployed police to monitor the situation.

"Students are able to engage in peaceful protest in many places on campus and, at the same time, the University has a responsibility to maintain an environment that is conducive to learning and academic success," university spokeswoman Colleen Mastony said on April 22.

"No one has the right to substantially disrupt university activities or to violate laws or university policies. We are working to minimize disruptions to university operations—most especially with classes ending tomorrow and the study period beginning before finals. Safety is always a key priority and, as such, we have increased security on campus. We are carefully monitoring the situation and remain prepared to appropriately address any harassment or threats against any member of our community."

University of Pennsylvania

On April 26, Penn officials ordered student protesters to end their encampment, citing "harassing and intimidating comments and actions." Days later, protesters were still there, with no arrests made.

"Penn has and will continue to support the rights of our community members to protest peacefully and in keeping with University policy. At Penn, we will stand up for free speech and the productive exchange of ideas, even when we disagree," interim president Larry Jameson wrote.

"We will not stand by, however, if protected protest and speech deteriorate into words and actions that violate Penn’s policies, disrupt University business, or contribute to an intimidating or hostile environment on our campus. We are assessing the details of the protest through this lens and will take follow-up action as appropriate."

"The encampment itself violates the University’s facilities policies. The harassing and intimidating comments and actions by some of the protesters, which were reported and documented by many in our community, violate Penn’s open expression guidelines and state and federal law, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. All members of our community deserve to access our facilities without fear of harassment or being subjected to discriminatory comments or threats.

"The vandalism of the statue in front of College Hall with antisemitic graffiti was especially reprehensible and will be investigated as a hate crime."

Yale University 

Yale police are investigating reports of intimidation and threats and will make referrals for discipline. Forty-seven were arrested on April 22.

"Yale College and graduate school deans and other university leaders have spoken multiple times with students participating in the protests to make clear university policies and guidelines, including the importance of maintaining open passageways in the event of a fire or other emergencies, the role of the university’s postering and chalking policy in fostering the exchange of ideas, and the need to allow other members of the community to use campus spaces," president Peter Salovey wrote on April 21.

"Putting up structures, defying the directives of university officials, staying in campus spaces past allowed times, and other acts that violate university policies and guidelines create safety hazards and impede the work of our university. We are continuing to speak with students who are participating in protests, so they understand the disciplinary consequences of actions that violate Yale’s policies.

"Many of the students participating in the protests, including those conducting counterprotests, have done so peacefully. However, I am aware of reports of egregious behavior, such as intimidation and harassment, pushing those in crowds, removal of the plaza flag, and other harmful acts. Yale does not tolerate actions, including remarks, that threaten, harass, or intimidate members of the university’s Jewish, Muslim, and other communities. The Yale Police Department is investigating each report, and we will take action when appropriate, including making referrals for student discipline. We are providing support to affected students."

"I call upon everyone involved—protesters and counter-protesters—to return to expressing their views in ways that are compatible with the fundamental value of intellectual freedom, that comply with university policies, and that foster civil discourse on our campus," Salovey wrote days later. "I hope that we can do this without further disruption and without violating policies or laws. Civil disobedience is a time-honored tradition in this nation, and with it comes consequences."

"I urge every member of the university community to be mindful of the effect of their choices and to be respectful of the need for civility in the way we conduct ourselves. Most importantly, I call on our community to live up to Yale’s mission and to show the world how we can learn from each other and work together even across a divide."

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Thirty protesters were detained Tuesday morning after the administration warned students that they risked arrest and expulsion. Interim chancellor Lee Roberts and provost Chris Clemens said protesters "must remove all tents, tables, and other items and depart from the area."

"Failure to follow this order to disperse will result in consequences including possible arrest, suspension from campus and, ultimately, expulsion from the university, which may prevent students from graduating," they said.


The Ugly

Brown University

Brown president Christina Paxson initially threatened students who violated school policy with probation. Then she agreed to hear a divestment proposal later this year.

"Provided that the encampment is peacefully brought to an end within the next few days and is not replaced with any other encampments or unauthorized protest activity (any protests violating University policies related to time, place or manner) this academic year," Paxson wrote in an April 29 letter to students, "the Corporation of Brown University will invite five students representing the current encampment activity and a small group of faculty members to speak with a similarly-sized group of Corporation members about their arguments for divestment."

Northwestern University

Northwestern University administrators, led by president Michael Schill, reached an agreement with students allowing them to remain on campus until June. As part of that agreement, Northwestern will offer faculty positions and scholarships to Palestinians and reestablish an investment advisory committee complete with representation from students pushing the school to divest from Israel.

"Earlier this morning, community members attempted to set up a tent encampment on Deering Meadow on the University’s Evanston campus, an act that is prohibited under University policies. University officials, including Northwestern Police and representatives from Student Affairs, are on site and have informed the group of the policies," school officials said in an April 25 statement. "They are working with the demonstrators to have the tents removed. Students who refuse to remove their tents will be subject to arrest and their tents will be removed by the University. Community members who do not adhere to University policies will face discipline."

"We have reached an agreement with a group of students and faculty who represent the majority of the protestors on Deering Meadow to bring the demonstration into compliance with University rules and policies," Schill announced four days later. "This agreement represents a sustainable and de-escalated path forward, and enhances the safety of all members of the Northwestern community while providing space for free expression that complies with University rules and policies."

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT president Sally Kornbluth did not issue a statement for almost a week after an encampment was established. On April 27, she said university police are deployed around the clock.

"We have heard the views of our protesting students. The grief and pain over the terrible loss of life and suffering in Gaza are palpable," she said in a recorded message. "Out of respect for the principles of free expression, we have not interfered with the encampment."

"But it is creating a potential magnet for disruptive outside protestors. It is commandeering space that was properly reserved by other members of our community. And keeping the encampment safe and secure for this set of students is diverting hundreds of staff hours, around the clock, away from other essential duties," Kornbluth said.

"We have a responsibility to the entire MIT community—and it is not possible to safely sustain this level of effort. We are open to further discussion about the means of ending the encampment. But this particular form of expression needs to end soon."

University of California, Los Angeles

The University of California has a system-wide policy to only call police when "absolutely necessary," university leaders reiterated amid ongoing encampments. No arrests have been made, even after protesters and counterprotesters fought each other overnight on May 1. The school canceled classes in response to the violence.

"We’ve taken several steps to help ensure people on campus know about the demonstration so they can avoid the area if they wish," vice chancellor Mary Osaka wrote on April 26. "This includes having student affairs representatives stationed near Royce quad to let Bruins and visitors know about the encampment, redirect them if desired and to serve as a resource for their needs."

"UCLA has a long history of peaceful protest, and we are heartbroken to report that today, some physical altercations broke out among demonstrators on Royce Quad. We have since instituted additional security measures and increased the numbers of our safety team members on site," Osaka said in a Monday statement.

Columbia University

Columbia president Minouche Shafik for days declined to bring police to campus to remove unsanctioned student protesters who plagued the school for nearly two weeks, saying that doing so "at this time would be counterproductive." After four missed deadlines to vacate the encampment and days of fruitless negotiations, cops swept through campus and arrested more than 100 protesters, some of whom stormed and occupied a university building.