Yale's New President Called In the Cops To Arrest Unauthorized Campus Protesters

As head of Stony Brook, Maurie McInnis survived censure vote after using police to disperse student protesters one day into illegal encampment

New Yale president Maurie McInnis (Dan Renzetti/
May 30, 2024

On Wednesday, Yale University named its next president: Maurie McInnis, who has led Stony Brook University in New York since July 2020. There, she narrowly survived a censure vote after she employed police to disperse and arrest student protesters who formed an unauthorized encampment.

McInnis will start at the Ivy League institution on July 1. Two weeks prior to her appointment, on May 13, Stony Brook's faculty senate voted on a motion to censure her, which failed 55 to 51. At issue was McInnis's proactive response to unauthorized campus protesters—less than 48 hours after Stony Brook students formed an encampment on April 30, McInnis used police to arrest 29 participants, citing an "increasingly hostile" atmosphere and an inability for other students to use the occupied space.

"Occupying a space like the Staller Steps that other members of the community have reserved and unfairly denying them the very thing they demand for themselves, the right to be heard, is unacceptable," McInnis and other university leaders said in a statement at the time. "When necessary we will take appropriate action to enforce these rules to ensure that all campus voices can be heard, not just the loudest or the most disruptive."

She defended her response to the encampment in a recent interview with the New York Times.

"No president wants to have to request that authorities intervene to disperse student protesters," said McInnis, a former history professor at the University of Virginia. "And once we realized they would not disperse, everything proceeded in a calm and orderly manner."

McInnis's encampment response provides a window into how the historian would handle similar protests at Yale. While the school's outgoing president, Peter Salovey, used police to arrest more than 40 encampment participants on Yale's campus, that encampment lasted slightly longer than the one at Stony Brook, spanning from April 19 to April 22.

Shortly thereafter, on April 28, student protesters established a second encampment, which was also cleared by police, though no arrests were made.

The head of Stony Brook's faculty senate, Richard Larson, praised McInnis's initial tenure at the school but criticized her decision to arrest student protesters, telling the Times that McInnis's administration "reached its sell-by date" at that time.

In a statement that did not address her encampment response, Yale Corporation head Joshua Bekenstein said McInnis is "going to do a wonderful job."

In addition to her stints at Stony Brook and Virginia, where McInnis also served as vice provost for academic affairs, McInnis served as provost of the University of Texas at Austin from 2016 to 2020.

Jewish leaders at both Stony Brook and Yale praised McInnis, with the executive director of Yale's Slifka Center for Jewish Life, Uriel Cohen, telling Jewish Insider that he is hopeful Yale's "campus climate [will return] to one in which mutual responsibility and respect are once again hallmarks of the Yale community."