University catches students posting political mock evictions notices

Rebecca Savransky, Assistant Campus Editor

University officials spoke to multiple Northwestern students who distributed mock eviction notices with Palestinian political messages to several campus dorms earlier this month.

The fliers, which imitated real eviction notices, were put underneath students’ doors as recently as last week. NU cannot release the names of individuals responsible, University spokesman Al Cubbage said.

“It is a violation of University policy to be posting political things on somebody else’s door,” he said. “So Student Affairs talked with the individuals involved and explained the university policies to them.”

The papers were distributed at NU after similar notices had been given to students at other universities across the country including at both the University of Michigan and Harvard University, according to The Michigan Daily and The Harvard Crimson. The notices distributed at Michigan and Harvard were attributed to specific student groups, though the students who distributed the fliers at NU remain anonymous.

Jonathan Kamel, co-president of Wildcats for Israel and a former Daily staffer, said the initiative appeared to be a more coordinated effort at other universities. The stunt was not as large-scale at NU because it was likely organized by individual students as opposed to a collective group, Kamel said.

He said he was surprised the fliers had been posted at NU, as he said it is not a “politically driven campus.”

“I really was not expecting it to happen at Northwestern mainly because it’s a move that really inflames the campus and really causes a lot of controversy that is unnecessary,” Kamel said.

Kamel reached out to the University following the event to ensure they were handling the matter appropriately. Since then, administrators have prevented any additional fliers from being distributed in dorms and have been in contact with various groups to confirm this was not a targeted attack, Kamel said.

Students confirmed fliers were circulated in both Foster-Walker Complex and Slivka Residential College with only select students receiving them in each of these dorms.

McCormick sophomore Max Gillet said  he was one of two other students in his five-person Slivka suite to receive a notice. He said he thought the measure was a form of propaganda in violation of his privacy.

Gillet said his brother who attends Michigan had received a similar notice earlier. When Gillet received the notice, he talked about the issue with students in his dorm and his residential advisor.

“I think it’s creating controversy,” he said. “I assume that’s what they want, whoever put them up, but I don’t think it’s a good way to go about getting publicity. It just feels creepy.”

Serene Darwish, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, said she supported the initiative, saying the distribution of the fliers was powerful because of their similarity to real Palestinian eviction notices.

Though members of the group said Students for Justice in Palestine had no involvement with the fliers, Darwish said she hoped those who read them would consider the Palestinian side of the issue.

“The shock effect of them can be really effective in getting people to feel the solidarity that I would hope people would feel with respect to the Palestinian cause,” she said.

Cubbage said the University learned about the fliers from residence hall staff. Student Affairs met with those involved to inform them of the University’s policy on posting political messages.

Kamel said the flier had many inaccuracies and only expressed one side of the very complex debate. He said he felt it was an inappropriate way to make a statement.

“Student safety and student privacy are the most important things, and when an event like this occurs that violates both these, that’s where the problem is,” Kamel said.

Ally Mutnick contributed reporting.

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Twitter: @beccasavransky