Administrators talk winter plans, student protests at fall Faculty Assembly meeting


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

University President Morton Schapiro. Administrators addressed protests led by NU Community Not Cops at Tuesday’s Faculty Assembly.

Isabelle Sarraf, Campus Editor

At Tuesday’s Faculty Assembly, Northwestern administrators discussed plans to bring students to campus this winter and ongoing student protests demanding the abolition of University Police.

Faculty members submitted questions for top University administrators at the event, moderated by Kellogg Prof. and Faculty Senate President Therese McGuire. 

In his opening remarks, University President Morton Schapiro addressed protests led by NU Community Not Cops by saying the University is open to “rethinking aspects of community safety.” The first step, he said, was Monday’s report that disclosed information about the UP budget.

Schapiro reiterated previous sentiments that while the University respects and will protect the right to protest, the idea that protesters have been victimized and attacked by police is just “one narrative out there.” While he’s sorry protesters feel unsafe, he said some people accept the narrative that protesters have been brutalized “without question.”

He cited NUCNC’s Halloween action, at which he alleged protesters threw bricks, lit fireworks and shined lasers into the eyes of police officers. The Daily previously reported that protesters on the scene described the fireworks and lasers as distraction tactics to prevent arrest and protect identity and were not intended to maim.

“The University will never condone violence and intimidation,” Schapiro said. “I don’t think anyone should be confused with the victimization of peaceful protesters with what has happened on those occasions, because that’s a very different narrative.”

Several faculty members submitted questions about student protesters being intimidated and threatened by police in Evanston, particularly by the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System. Craig Johnson, senior vice president for business and finance, said the University would look into any complaints about intimidation by police to ensure no one in the community feels unsafe.

NIPAS is not under University jurisdiction though, nor can the University call upon its Mobile Field Force, so Johnson said there is “nothing (NU) can do” to prevent NIPAS from coming to Evanston. He said the University has been in talks with Mayor Steve Hagerty, City Manager Erika Storlie and Evanston Police Chief Demitrous Cook about issues surrounding the policing of student protesters.

“We hold each other accountable,” Johnson said. “We don’t want our community hurt in any way, shape or form.”

Though some faculty questioned the University’s decision to allow all underclassmen to campus this winter, administrators remained confident in their plans.

Schapiro said the University has been testing about 1,400 community members a day with a positivity rate hovering around 1 percent, which he said puts NU in “pretty good shape” compared to the numbers nearby and in Cook County.

Provost Kathleen Hagerty said NU’s COVID-19 case numbers are “a lot better” than the community numbers particularly because of the University’s surveillance testing. NU’s campus, she said, appears to be a “pretty safe place” amid the state’s COVID-19 crisis. Last week, the University reported 78 new cases, the highest number recorded since the pandemic began.

“Health and safety protocols on campus are well above anything that’s out in the community,” Hagerty said. “We’re not the place where the risk is — the risk is outside of Northwestern.”

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