Letter to the Editor: Northwestern’s actions are not living up to its values

In my five years as a graduate student at Northwestern, I’ve noticed a pattern in the University’s behavior. NU is fond of portraying itself as a progressive and totally inclusive environment for scholarship; however, its actions fall far short of that ideal.

During this past year, after President Donald Trump announced his “Muslim ban,” University President Morton Schapiro released a strongly worded response calling on Trump to make “clear that this country still welcomes scholars and students from around the world, just as Northwestern University does.” Later in the same year, however, J. Landis Martin — who donated to a political action committee that supported then-candidate Trump’s campaign, which often espoused anti-Muslim rhetoric — was elected as the chair of its Board of Trustees.

If this were an isolated incident, I might think the University simply didn’t believe the Muslim ban was possible. Yet in the wake of white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, NU also came out with a statement that said bringing hateful Nazi views to college campuses “is an insult to our nation and to the academic communities that have helped make it so strong.” This is the same University that has refused to find a way to fire Arthur Butz. Regardless of his tenure, Butz has proven himself to be a Nazi sympathizer from my own department as he published a leading Holocaust denial text, yet NU continues to allow him to teach classes.

This pattern has emerged again recently with various NU administrators claiming to be concerned about the effect of the federal tax bill on graduate students in emails to us. Nonetheless, the University seems to consistently refuse to engage in behavior it fears will be regarded as partisan lobbying. Strong rhetoric with no follow-up does not make for an inclusive university, and Northwestern needs to stop pretending it does.

These are not partisan issues. It is possible to donate to different political campaigns and foster dialogue without backing one team. All decent humans should agree that Nazis are evil, that banning immigration based on religious background is wrong and that taxing students for tuition money they never receive is unjust. It is disheartening that Northwestern is so afraid of being labeled as political that the University refuses to help students when they need it most.

Ryan Keating
Ph.D. Candidate in EECS