Northwestern Faculty Condemn University President for Denouncing Anti-Semitic Protests

Northwestern University / Wikimedia Commons
October 28, 2020

Hundreds of Northwestern faculty and staff condemned the university's president for denouncing violent racial protests that veered into expressions of virulent anti-Semitism against him.

On Oct. 26, faculty members sent a letter to Northwestern president Morton Schapiro expressing their dismay at his "response to recent student protests about the pervasiveness of anti-Black violence and the long history and current nature of much policing in this country."

Schapiro had issued a statement condemning students who destroyed school property, surrounded his home after six consecutive nights of protest, and chanted "Piggy Morty," which Schapiro called an anti-Semitic slur.

"What started as peaceful protests have recently grown into expressions that have been anything but peaceful or productive," Schapiro's statement read.

The faculty letter accuses Schapiro of refusing to engage with students of color. "We write … to express our strong support for … our BIPOC students and staff colleagues, and to assert strenuously that all have the right to protest and redress historic injustices and to protect our communities from violence and hate."

Calls for police abolition and on-campus protests have grown alongside the Black Lives Matter movement. At the nearby University of Chicago, student activists vowed to protest for a year because the administration refused to abolish the campus police department. Johns Hopkins University students also protested plans to create a campus police department, leading to multiple student and Baltimore-resident arrests.

The Northwestern letter included a paragraph addressing the racial makeup of the signatories, a majority of whom are white, to show that even a "predominantly white institution" such as Northwestern has white professors who wish to "disrupt any assumption that [they] condone the inequity of the racialized status quo."

The first 10 signatories are professors of gender and sexuality studies, none of whom returned requests for comment—except to say that the Washington Free Beacon could not use their comments for publication. Notable signatories include poet Reginald Gibbons and essayist Laura Kipnis, who writes on issues related to feminism, the #MeToo movement, and "gender equity."

The anti-police group "NU Community Not Cops" has taken faculty demands a step further, calling on Schapiro to resign. "Your students see through you, Morton," the group said. "Black people are not safe anywhere in a world with police, including in their homes, a reality that black students at Northwestern also contend with."

In June, Schapiro sent a university-wide email addressing the school's "unrelenting" commitment to racial and social justice. The email said that the school "vehemently" opposes "anti-blackness and police brutality."

"It should not be a controversial or a political statement to declare that Black Lives Matter," Schapiro's letter reads. "We need to identify and address all forms of implicit and explicit racism and bias on our campuses."

The recent faculty letter dubbed Schapiro's commitment to social justice insufficient and called on him to condemn police brutality more explicitly.

"Month after month," the signatories claimed, "you have distributed muted, highly abstract, and non-specific statements about several traumatic events, here on campus or elsewhere in the nation—including the murders and maimings of Black people of all genders at the hands of police, who routinely suffer no repercussion."

Northwestern University did not respond to requests for comment.