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The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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University releases statement on April 15 demonstration following Free Beacon article

Beatrice Villaflor/The Daily Northwestern
The University released a statement Sunday afternoon following misinformation regarding Dean of Students Mona Dugo’s presence at an April 15 rally.

Northwestern released a statement Sunday afternoon clarifying the role of University administrators at student demonstrations after Dean of Students Mona Dugo’s presence at an on-campus rally April 15 drew negative coverage in conservative media and on social media.

In the statement, the University wrote that Dugo regularly attends student demonstrations on all topics as an observer to ensure the safety of the NU community.

“Her role at these demonstrations is not as a participant or supporter, but as an observer to ensure safety and well-being of the entire community, including those who might be targeted by the protest,” the statement reads.

The statement follows a Friday article on conservative news website Washington Free Beacon alleging Dugo “attended an anti-Israel protest this week targeting Hillel, the school’s Jewish student community center, to defend the demonstrators’ ‘right to free speech.’”

The April 15 protest at The Rock — organized by NU chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine, Educators for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, Fossil Free Northwestern and Students Organizing for Labor Rights — coincided with Wildcat Days, NU’s admitted students programming. It aimed to show admitted students and their families “the real Northwestern” and called on the University to divest from companies with ties to fossil fuels and Israel, among other demands.

The protest was one of two on campus last week as Israel’s war in Gaza has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian officials. Students have also organized vigils and demonstrations on campus to honor those killed and taken hostage in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, which killed about 1,200 Israelis, according to Israeli officials.

The Free Beacon article quoted NU alumni calling for disciplinary action against Dugo for her attendance at the rally. It also referenced The Daily’s April 15 article, “Activist groups seek to show admitted students ‘real’ NU with protests across campus for divestment, support for Palestinians,” which quoted Dugo as saying she was present to protect students’ right to protest and to free speech.

At the rally, Dugo told The Daily she was present as a part of the University’s Event Support Team with the goal of “keeping an eye on things to make sure there’s nothing that escalates into either the protesters being threatened or harmed or them doing anything that disrupts or damages our community.”

“I’m not really here to stand with or in opposition to the students,” Dugo said at the rally. “My role as the dean of students is to make sure that students have a right to protest.”

She told The Daily on Monday that her primary focus at the rally, in addition to protecting students’ right to protest, was monitoring an outside individual not affiliated with the University who briefly attended the rally to prevent possible escalation.

NU’s Student Handbook explains that the EST is to be convened once the University is notified of a planned demonstration “to preserve open discourse surrounding and during the event.”

Dugo and other staff from the Division of Student Affairs have been present at several student demonstrations and protests since October related to the Israel-Hamas war — including a student walkout on Oct. 25, an Evanston ceasefire rally at University President Michael Schill’s home on Nov. 4 and an event hosted by NU SJP on Jan. 24.

Dugo said the process of convening an EST generally involves three steps: reaching out to student organizers prior to any event or demonstration to communicate University policy, observing the event in real time to mitigate any possible escalation and following up with organizers after the event if appropriate.

According to emails shared with The Daily, Dugo has received several threatening messages since the publication of the Free Beacon article calling for her resignation and charging her with antisemitism. The messages also included profanities and explicit images.

The April 15 rally — and Dugo’s presence at it — has sparked controversy in relation to flyers distributed by student activists during the admitted students day. The flyers charged NU with “funneling Jewish students into Hillel, the Zionist ‘foundation for Jewish life,’” a criticism which was echoed by student activists at the rally.

In its Sunday statement, the University said it is investigating whether the statements in the flyers violate NU’s Code of Conduct or discrimination and harassment policies.

“The University, and our Dean of Students, strongly supports Hillel, which is vital to the Northwestern community,” the statement reads.

Dugo noted that, even if the Office of Civil Rights and the Office of Community Standards determine that the flier did not violate University policy, the Division of Student Affairs can still engage in conversations with students about using respectful language during demonstrations.

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X: @jacob_wendler

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