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Demonstrations and Freedom of Expression

Dear members of the Northwestern community,

Over the past many months, and throughout Northwestern’s history, activism, debate and demonstration have played a vital role in University life. We want to therefore reiterate our demonstration policy, the freedoms and duties that this policy affords us all and the consequences for not upholding those responsibilities.

One of a university’s most important functions is to serve as an incubator for positive change. An academic community like ours values engaging in discourse, disagreement and informed debate to challenge the status quo – and to find solutions to societal problems new and old.

As such, our demonstration policy states that Northwestern “encourages freedom of speech, freedom of inquiry, freedom of dissent and freedom to demonstrate in a peaceful fashion.” Demonstrations, conducted within our guidelines and policies, advance the conversation about how to improve our campuses and our world. We strongly protect such expression, while we simultaneously recognize our collective obligation to respect the rights of all individuals — protestors and observers alike.

Our demonstration policy is designed to prevent the harm or harassment of our community members as they conduct their business. Under the policy, demonstrations may not infringe upon the rights of others, endanger the safety of individuals or disrupt University operations or events.

As an example, entering the field of play during athletic competition — as occurred last Saturday during the Northwestern-Iowa football game at Ryan Field — presents unique challenges for the safety and well-being of all involved. This represents a violation of our demonstration policy and will require the University to move promptly to end any such disruptions and hold individuals accountable. Ramifications can potentially involve suspension, expulsion or legal consequences as appropriate.

We remain committed to being a place where we can all engage in and advocate for change, including through safe and orderly demonstrations, while also upholding our responsibilities to one another and to our community.