The biggest events on campus and in Evanston during the Class of 2021’s time at Northwestern

Graduation Issue 2021

January 11, 2018 — Provost informs Faculty Senate of budget deficit

When then-Provost Jonathan Holloway first informed faculty members that the University was operating on a budget deficit, he classified the problem as “an annoyance.” But the University’s budget woes continued for quarters, leading to the layoffs of 80 staff members in July 2018, budget cuts for all academic and administrative units, and even closing the ice skating rink at Norris University Center. Northwestern did not see a budget surplus until the 2019 fiscal year ended.

March 14, 2018 — Swatting incident leaves campus on edge

After police responded to a call from a man who claimed he had shot his girlfriend at Engelhart Hall, a graduate residence, the gun threat was determined to be a hoax. But students across Northwestern’s Evanston campus spent more than an hour in lockdown after an emergency alert came out about 2:40 p.m. warning people to seek shelter. Many barricaded themselves in classrooms and offices, refreshing social media feeds for updates and texting friends and family. The event occurred on the same day as students at Northwestern and across the country participated in walkouts advocating for gun control.

May 21, 2018 — Northwestern alumna Meghan Markle becomes British royalty

Actress Meghan Markle (Communication ’03) married Prince Harry in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, becoming the first American to marry into the royal family since 1937. The royal wedding drew lots of attention at Markle’s alma mater, as did the saga that followed — the birth of their son Archie, their decision to step down as senior royals, and an explosive 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey in which the pair detailed the mistreatment, mental health challenges and racism they encountered within the royal family.

November 6, 2018 — Democrat J.B. Pritzker elected governor of Illinois

Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker won the Illinois gubernatorial election, defeating Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner. Pritzker, a Chicago businessman and entrepreneur, ran on promises of a graduated income tax and expanded access to affordable health care across Illinois. “I am so grateful tonight to everyone here in this room and those watching at home,” Pritzker told the crowd. “Voting is an act of optimism that the levers of our democracy still work. You embody that optimism.”

January 28, 2019 — Northwestern cancels classes due to polar vortex

Evan Robinson-Johnson/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern students said the University made the right choice to cancel school due to forecasts of sub-zero temperatures –– a rare move for a school that has only closed six times in the last century because of the winter weather. From a Tuesday evening to a Thursday morning, classes were canceled due to the temperature reaching negative twenty degrees, with the wind chill pushing it between negative thirty and negative fifty below zero.

March 13, 2019 — Northwestern parents implicated in college admissions scandal

The parents of a Northwestern student were charged in a $25 million cheating and bribing scheme that facilitated college admissions for wealthy students, becoming one of the largest scandals of the year. Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez, who live in Atherton, California, were accused of paying for a proctor to help their two daughters cheat on college entrance exams. They would go on to be portrayed in a Netflix documentary about the scandal and serve time in prison.

April 2, 2019 — Lori Lightfoot elected Mayor of Chicago

Lori Lightfoot defeated Toni Preckwinkle to become the mayor of Chicago in a landslide victory. Lightfoot received 73.70 percent of the vote to become Chicago’s first black female mayor and first openly-gay mayor.

November 6, 2019 — Students protest Jeff Sessions’ speech, police presence

Students protested Northwestern College Republicans’ decision to host former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, chanting outside Lutkin Hall before attempting to interrupt Sessions’ talk by climbing through open windows and pushing through doors. Around 150 protesters, some holding signs reading “No conSessions, No racism, No KKK, No Facist USA” and “SE$$ION$ I$ A TRAITOR,” gathered outside the lecture hall before Sessions was scheduled to speak at 7 p.m., booing and yelling as attendees entered the building. Protestors were met with police violence, including being tackled and knocked to the ground.

November 26, 2019 — Evanston City Council passes local reparations fund

City Council passed a historic resolution to establish a $10 million fund for local reparations, including revenue from the recreational cannabis retailers tax. Starting on Jan. 1, 2020, all of the city’s recreational cannabis retailers tax will be transferred to the reparations fund until the fund has reached $10 million in revenue from this source. The fund was eventually committed to be used as grants for housing assistance to Black Evanstonians who either lived in Evanston or have direct ancestors who lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969. It became a source of national and local debate, as local activists opposed the use of the term reparations to describe the program and pushed for stronger policy.

March 13, 2020 — Northwestern reports first case of COVID-19

Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

After administrators cancelled Dance Marathon and encouraged professors to offer take-home exams instead of in-person finals due to cases of the novel coronavirus rising in the United States, Northwestern reported its first case. An employee in the Kellogg School of Management’s Global Hub tested positive for COVID-19. The case was the first confirmed on Northwestern’s campus, and initiated a self-isolation and contact tracing protocol that would become the norm for over a year.

April 6, 2020 — Northwestern announces Spring Quarter will be entirely virtual

After the first day of remote learning, Northwestern extended remote learning for the rest of Spring Quarter due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The latest guidance from local, state and federal officials makes clear this will not be feasible. Therefore, with heavy hearts, we are announcing that we will maintain the current, remote format for the entirety of Spring Quarter,” read administrators’ email.

May 31, 2020 — Evanston protests the murder of George Floyd, police brutality

Evanston joined the ranks of cities nationwide protesting against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Over a thousand residents gathered outside the YWCA Evanston/North Shore, at Church and Ridge on a Sunday afternoon. Protesters then marched throughout Evanston and congregated in a parking lot across from Evanston Township High School. Evanston youths organized the protest to address police brutality and the death of Floyd. A white police officer killed Floyd, a black man, by kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while arresting him.

September 7, 2020 — PHA calls for Greek Life to be abolished

Over the summer of 2020, the Abolish NU IFC/PHA Greek Life Instagram account facilitated communitywide discussion on the harm that Greek Life inflicts on members of the NU community, prompting internal debate among many Greek chapters. Northwestern’s Panhellenic Association, which governs 11 chapters, released a statement acknowledging its harmful history and current movement to abolish Greek life on campus, calling the harm the organization has done “irreparable” and saying PHA “furthers exclusivity, classism, racism and homophobia in the community.”

October 31, 2020 — Police pepper spray Northwestern Community Not Cops protestors, arresting one
Northwestern Community Not Cops, a group calling for the disarmament, defunding and disbandment of the Northwestern University Police Department, held daily actions in Fall 2020 to pressure administrators into abolishing NUPD. At a protest on Halloween, Evanston police and Illinois crowd control officers, deployed in riot gear with K-9 support, used chemical ammunition and made one arrest. Students reported fearing for their safety and credited a divisive October email from President Morton Schapiro as the catalyst for increased police presence.

November 8, 2020 — Evanston celebrates as Joe Biden is declared presidential election victory

When President-elect Joe Biden was announced as the projected winner for the 2020 presidential election, Evanston residents erupted into cheers. Hundreds flocked to Fountain Square, some draped in American flags. A spontaneous car parade streamed across Davis Street while onlookers danced and embraced, pumping Biden/Harris 2020 signs in the air. A bus driver honked their horn in solidarity. One person launched a confetti cannon. Another climbed to the top of an emergency blue light to sing “FDT (F–k Donald Trump)” by YG and Nipsey Hussle, a protest song criticizing President Donald Trump.

February 23, 2021 — Daniel Biss elected mayor of Evanston

Former state Sen. Daniel Biss was elected Evanston’s next mayor. Prior to his mayoral candidacy, Biss served in the Illinois state House for two years, and was elected in 2012 to represent the state’s 9th district, including Evanston, in the Illinois state Senate. He also mounted a Democratic gubernatorial campaign in 2018, but eventually fell short, coming in second in the party’s primary to current Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

March 4, 2021 — University President Morton Schapiro announces retirement

Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

After 13 years at Northwestern, University President Morton Schapiro will end his tenure on August 31, 2022. During his time at Northwestern, annual research funding rose 86 percent and Northwestern broke the top 10 ranked universities in the country. In months leading up to the announcement, Schapiro faced backlash from students and faculty around his response to the Northwestern University Community Not Cops protests. In the daily protests to abolish University Police in the fall, students repeatedly called on Schapiro to resign.

May 21, 2021 — Northwestern reports no new positive cases for first time in pandemic

After administering nearly 300,000 tests since August, Northwestern reported no confirmed COVID-19 cases from May 14 to 20. This marked the first week with no cases in the 2020-21 academic year.