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

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

The Daily Northwestern

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Faculty express concerns over lack of transparency in University’s negotiation process with encampment organizers at Assembly

Daily file photo by Victoria Benefield
At Monday’s previously scheduled Faculty Assembly meeting, Hagerty and Schill took time to discuss the “campus climate” in the wake of the encampment.

University President Michael Schill addressed the University’s response to the pro-Palestinian encampment on Deering Meadow at a biannual Faculty Assembly Monday afternoon.

After five days of demonstration, negotiators for the Northwestern Divestment Coalition came to an agreement with the University to end the encampment. NU agreed to permit protests — only by members of the campus community — on Deering Meadow through June 1.

In exchange, the NU Divestment Coalition, which organized the encampment, will commit to leaving only one aid tent on the lawn. Students will also use only pre-approved devices to project or amplify sound.

After a welcome statement from Chemistry Prof. Regan Thomson, the Senate’s president, Provost Kathleen Hagerty and Chief Financial Officer Mandy Distel provided an overview of the University’s budgeting process. The remarks were followed by comments from Schill and Hagerty on the campus climate.

“We were hoping to avoid the situation that happened at other schools, where there has just been a lot of violence and then there’s nothing to show for it,” Hagerty said. “We’ve made some progress and we’ll see, but we’re not out of the woods yet.”

The Faculty Senate was not involved in drafting or approving the agreement, English Prof. and Faculty Senate committee member Barbara Newman said in a Monday morning email to faculty.

One of the commitments the University made in the agreement was to reestablish the Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility, which was first introduced as an advisory body to the Board of Trustees’ Investment Committee in 2016 and has since become inactive.

At the Feb. 7 Faculty Senate meeting, Chief Investment Officer Amy Falls said she hoped to revive the committee and nominate faculty for three-year terms by this spring.

The previous iteration of the ACIR has considered divestment proposals before. In 2020, the committee recommended that the board consider a proposal from student group Fossil Free NU calling for the University to divest from the top 100 coal, oil and gas companies. The board rejected the proposal.

Some faculty members expressed disappointment that the meeting wasn’t entirely dedicated to discussion of the encampment.

Thomson said he asked University leadership for the budgeting process overview to be moved to a future meeting, but his request was denied.

At Monday’s meeting, Schill focused on outlining the terms of the agreement.

“The health and safety of our students, our faculty and our staff, including our police officers, is, was and always will be our number one concern,” Schill said.

He added that he has made “unpopular” decisions in the past based on this same tenet, and he is prepared to do it again.

Schill discussed incidents of antisemitism on campus, including a sign found near the encampment depicting a Star of David with a red line through it and one that depicted Schill with devil horns, an antisemitic trope that harkens back to medieval-era “blood libel” accusations against Jewish people.

He also acknowledged the pain that Muslim and Palestinian students at NU are feeling right now.

“They have lost friends, they have lost families in the war in Gaza, they are scared to walk the streets of Evanston and Chicago,” Schill said.

He added that he wants to “investigate and persecute hateful acts” and maintain a commitment to freedom of expression and academic freedom.

Schill left the assembly before the floor was opened to comment. Hagerty said she wouldn’t take any questions but welcomed statements.

“I think that it’s a bunch of bulls—t that you’re not answering any questions,” a faculty member who introduced herself as Lauren said to Hagerty. “To not be accountable to the people who are part of this Northwestern community, I think it is absolutely heinous.”

Other faculty expressed disappointment at the University administration’s lack of transparency in its negotiation process.

History Prof. Rajeev Kinra said Hagerty and Schill’s update to faculty was “deeply insulting.”

“I mean, it’s a slap in the face,” Kinra said. “They may well be negotiating in good faith with the students, but they have not been treating the situation in good faith or with any real degree of knowledge about the actual situation in Gaza.”

Schill said the University received support, including letters and official guidance, from faculty during the negotiation process.

He added that he and Hagerty looked forward to hearing the recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Free Expression and Institutional Speech that he established in February.

“I’m hoping that Northwestern can be a model for the rest of the nation to emulate,” Schill said.

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