President Robert L. Manuel > Notes from Rob > 2023-24 > After the encampment

After the encampment

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,

Over the past several weeks, and indeed since the horrifying events of October 7 and the devastating loss of innocent life that has taken place since then in Gaza and Israel, I have spent much time reflecting on the role of universities in shaping civil discourse. I can see the passion of so many in the DePaul family who came together in the spirit of peaceful protest, respectful and compassionate discourse, and community building. That is what makes the events of today, and the escalation that led to them, so difficult and upsetting. 

This morning at 5:30 a.m., DePaul Public Safety and Chicago Police began disassembling the encampment. Every person in the encampment was given the opportunity to leave peacefully. Every person in the encampment was also informed any items left behind would be discarded. No one in the encampment was arrested. Two individuals were later arrested by the Chicago Police for obstructing traffic on Belden Ave. The encampment was cleared by approximately 6 a.m., and normal university operations proceeded. As a reminder, the quad and all green spaces on the Lincoln Park Campus will remain closed until further notice. 

Since the encampment began, 17 days ago, DePaul leadership and our engagement team have been dedicated to establishing and nurturing an open dialogue with protesters and all those involved, including student groups, families, faculty, staff, and neighbors. Despite repeated violations of university policy, we remained committed to finding common ground and reaching a shared resolution to end the encampment. 

Shortly after the encampment began, the DePaul Divestment Coalition delivered ten demands to the university administration. These demands included calling for the university to “remove individuals with ties to Israel from board of trustees and prevent Zionists from determining where our tuition money is going.” Despite this demand, which we consider antisemitic and antithetical to our Vincentian values, we took the time to thoughtfully respond to each one. 

We shared our full response with the university community on May 6. When the divestment coalition requested clarification on certain items in our response, we diligently worked again to offer additional solutions, which we shared publicly on May 11. We still believe many of the ideas we put forward will be beneficial to the university and intend to pursue them. A full timeline of encampment-related meetings and communications is available here.

Over these last several weeks, we have watched other universities across the country reach agreements with their own groups of student protesters to end their encampments. Despite our solutions resembling what other universities have successfully put forward, our students at DePaul were unable to agree to terms that bound all their people in the coalition. 

It became apparent that the student leaders did not have the ability to represent everyone or make decisions in our final meeting with the DePaul Divestment Coalition and their attorney on May 11. The students leading this protest had lost control of the situation due to the influence of external entities. Even more upsetting, the student leaders demonstrated a complete lack of understanding or concern for the impact the encampment was having on the rest of the population in our university community.  

The conversation could not continue. We had worked very hard to balance the need to allow the protesters to make their voices heard with the equally important need to ensure that the rest of our community was safe and could further their academic pursuits. Unfortunately, we reached the point where the disruption to the lives of countless students and neighbors could no longer be ameliorated.    

I do believe that the students with the Divestment Coalition initiated the encampment with sincere intentions to peacefully protest. Unfortunately, the encampment morphed from a peaceful exercise to an unsafe environment that attracted outside agitators, disrupted campus operations, and affected our neighbors’ day-to-day existence in their homes and schools. 

As I indicated in the message I sent earlier this morning, over the past 17 days, the university received more than 1,000 registered complaints from deeply upset faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, and neighbors – all requesting that the encampment end. The 303 students who live in University Hall have not been able to study or sleep due to the amplified noise coming from the quad in violation of the City of Chicago noise ordinance. Countless neighbors called the police and the university because of the noise ordinance violations. The Chicago Public Schools informed us they had cancelled recess for the nearby Oscar Mayer grade school due to safety concerns stemming from the activity in the encampment. 

We took steps to address these concerns as we became aware of them and made every effort to assist our faculty, staff, and students who received threats or who told us the encampment activities prevented them from working or studying or otherwise participating in their normal university pursuits. But we can no longer maintain this balance.  We had no choice but to act, before we lost the ability to provide for the safety of the Jewish members of our community, to preserve the rights of all other students, and to maintain university operations.

To demonstrate the negative impact of the encampment that accumulated over time, I again invite you to view a website that contains examples of discrimination, harassment, and violence. In the time since we published the website earlier this morning, we have added images of items we found in the encampment while dismantling it, including knives, a pellet gun and other improvised weapons intended to cause harm. Please note certain content on the website contains explicit or violent material that may be harmful or traumatizing

I understand that the last 17 days have been stressful for many, not only within our campus, but also for those who live and work in our neighboring community. We are saddened that the situation came to the point ​where law enforcement intervention was necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all – both within and outside the encampment. 

Free speech and the right to peacefully protest are central to our core values here at DePaul, but they must not come at the expense of safety and well-being. 

Last weekend, the New York Times editorial board published an opinion piece, stating that colleges are failing to strike a balance between academic freedom and free speech, as illustrated by the protests that have disrupted campuses across the nation. I ask you to consider how we – the DePaul community – can apply what we have learned these last several weeks to maintain a culture of free expression while also balancing the essential need to enforce boundaries. 

While peaceful protest and dissention should continue, the encampment could not. 


Robert L. Manuel