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Northwestern Enacts Interim Addendum to Student Code of Conduct

Dear students,

As we enter the final weeks of the academic year, our community — like so many others around the country — continues to grapple with the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and the resulting war in Gaza.

In Evanston, we have seen peaceful protests that have interfered with classes in nearby buildings, as well as chalkings, flyers, banners and chants that many have found hateful, intimidating, offensive and difficult to avoid.

Earlier this morning, a group of demonstrators attempted to set up a tent encampment on Deering Meadow and were informed that doing so is prohibited under University policies. After discussions with University officials, some demonstrators removed their tents. Others refused and were cited by Northwestern Police. Their tents were removed by the University.

Freedom of expression and enlightened debate are among our institution’s guiding principles and priorities. At the same time, the University prioritizes the safety and well-being of all community members as well as the importance of not disrupting classes and our educational mission.

In recent weeks, students have asked us for guidance on what is acceptable behavior during demonstrations and other forms of activism.

After carefully reviewing our existing Demonstration Policy and consulting with University academic leaders including the Council of Deans and the Faculty Senate’s Executive Committee, we have enacted an interim addendum to our existing Student Code of Conduct effective immediately, as authorized by University policies.

The goal of this addendum is to balance the right to peacefully demonstrate with our goal to protect our community, to avoid disruptions to instruction and to ensure University operations can continue unabated. The addendum makes temporary changes to how protestors can engage on our Evanston campus, including at The Rock; and the rules governing chalkings, tents and other provisions.

Any violation of the rules contained in this document or in our policies could lead to disciplinary actions such as suspension or expulsion, and possibly criminal sanctions.  

In the coming months, I will engage fully with stakeholder groups across the University to determine whether these changes are effective and strike the right balance between free expression and community health and safety. That work will be informed by the work of the President’s Advisory Committee on Preventing Anti-Semitism and Hate and our Advisory Committee on Free Expression and Institutional Speech.

We understand that many in our community are hurting right now, as the war in the Middle East continues, and that many have strong, deeply held beliefs that guide their response to the war. Our hope is that with this amended policy, we can navigate the remainder of the school year — and beyond — together, and with a clearer sense of how we, as a University, can peacefully engage.

Conversations about the Middle East are difficult, but vitally important. We encourage you to continue to take advantage of the many pedagogical opportunities to learn about and discuss these issues, through such programs as the Buffett Institute for Global Affairs’ ongoing joint speaker series exploring the fundamental history of Israel and Palestine. And for those who choose to demonstrate in support of their beliefs, we hope you will do so peacefully and respectfully, in accordance with our institutional policies.