Political Science grad students call on Schapiro to work with student activists, enact concrete policy change


Daily file photo by Brian Meng

Scott Hall, 601 University Pl., home of Northwestern’s Political Science Department.

Isabelle Sarraf, Campus Editor

The Political Science Department’s graduate student body, The Commune, wrote a letter Thursday to express concerns about University President Morton Schapiro’s email condemning student protests.

Schapiro’s email, they wrote, demonstrated a disconnect from student demands and ignorance of abolitionist ideas. They added his email expressed “dangerously” anti-Black and anti-democratic sentiments, which they hope won’t be allowed to go unchallenged.

“With your email, you are sending a clear message to students, the broader Northwestern community, and the world: contentious political action is not welcome as a valid form of expression on our campus,” The Commune wrote. “We do not accept this premise.”

The Commune was created out of student activism and protests of 1968, including the Bursar’s Takeover by Black students. That moment was also met with “stern and patronizing” response from the University, the students wrote, but 50 years later was celebrated and commemorated.

For more than four months, they wrote Schapiro had ignored the demands Black student activists made in a June 3 petition about investing in Black students’ lives and wellbeing. He also neglected to meet with Black student leaders over the summer and fall, instead sending administrators who “lacked the ability or authority” to properly address questions about abolition, The Commune wrote.

“By centering your own affective response, you shifted the narrative away from concrete policy demands of students,” The Commune wrote.

Schapiro’s framing of the Evanston community through the lens of “benevolent neighbors” and businesses relies on “a great deal of white privilege,” they wrote, highlighting how unaffected he has been by the violence of policing.

His disgust with student protestors and his moves to dehumanize the weekend’s action, The Commune wrote, is an “unacceptable” use of white supremacist tropes that may be rooted in the norms of a racist order. They added that Schapiro’s unsupported claim about outside agitators have been used in attempts to delegitimize democratic protestors — like in Minneapolis this summer.

The Commune wrote that Schapiro’s email was a “telling example” of how protestors can play a crucial role in uncovering persistent forms of institutionalized anti-Blackness at Northwestern. Any attempts by administrators to promote “diversity and inclusion,” they wrote, are empty if they continue to ignore the actions of Black students and colleagues.

“If Northwestern’s mission is truly committed to ‘the personal and intellectual growth of its students in a diverse academic community,’ we urge you and the administration to take a more comprehensive look on how contentious political organizing shapes students to become critically aware, civically engaged, and politically active during and beyond their time at Northwestern,” The Commune wrote.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @isabellesarraf

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