IU President and Provost respond to pushback over police response to encampment



BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (IUSTV News) — IU President Pamela Whitten and Provost Rahul Shrivastav released a statement Sunday about the ongoing protests in Dunn Meadow, addressing recent encounters with law enforcement, student arrests, and claims of antisemitism.

Whitten expressed concerns for safety, saying, “the events of recent days have been difficult, disturbing and emotional.”

The statement addressed five main points:

  • the possibility of antisemitism in encampment protests
  • the university’s commitment to free speech
  • the decision to dismantle the encampment
  • how they plan to implement the new policy put into place regarding tents in Dunn Meadow

Possible Antisemitism
Whitten and Shrivastav said the university is worried about possible antisemitism tied to the encampments popping up on college campuses, citing that “antisemitic episodes” have been linked to this national encampment campaign.

While there have been concerns of antisemitic instances at college campuses across the country, IUSTV News is working to verify whether any instances have happened involving the encampment in Dunn Meadow.

Chabad at IU Bloomington released a statement Sunday, saying Jewish students have been spit at and followed home since the encampment started.

In response to claims of antisemitism within the encampment, Bryce Greene, spokesperson for the IU Divestment Coalition said, “This is part of a long pattern of trying to label any criticism of Israel and any activism against American support for Israel as antisemitic. Any attempt to do so is very dishonest, ahistorical and quite frankly, kind of goofy, but it’s effective in suppressing pro-Palestinian speech, which why it continues to be deployed.”

University Commitment to Free Speech
In the statement, Whitten and Shrivastav said “free speech on our campus will never be impeded. There have been no changes to the opportunities and rights for free expression on campus.”

However, many expressed concern that the way the administration has been handling the protests in Dunn Meadow have threatened free speech on campus.

In a letter to IU administration, IU Media School faculty said the following in response to the protest and administration’s actions:

“Such demonstrations are a hallmark both of a dynamic intellectual environment and our treasured rights as citizens under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The recent protests were not the first to involve participants setting up tents and supplies in anticipation of a lengthy demonstration, but sadly, this is the first time in recent memory that the IU administration reacted with such brute force. The administration has crossed a red line by choosing an authoritarian stance that is antithetical to the mission of an institution of higher learning. In so doing, it has damaged the university’s credibility and moral center.”

IU Media School letter to IU Administration

DECISION TO DISMANTLE THE ENCAMPMENT
In response to the decision to dismantle the encampment, the statement said after standing down for 24 hours, administration decided to force protesters to take down the tents in Dunn Meadow, in compliance with a policy from 1969 saying there cannot be structures on the grounds after 11 p.m., unless otherwise approved.

IU administration added an additional policy on April 24, the night before protests began, saying no structure of any kind, including tents, could be put up in Dunn Meadow at any point without university approval.

The statement said they enforced this policy with the help of the IU Police Department and Indiana State Police in order to balance “legitimate safety concerns related to un-regulated encampments and our commitment to free speech.”

Two Indiana State Police troopers look down over Dunn Meadow on April 26, 2024, as protesters gather and begin to set up more tents. (Olivia Oliver)

On Thursday, IUPD and ISP marched into Dunn Meadow with crowd-control weapons and tore down the encampment. They then tore it down again on Saturday after protesters slept in tents overnight Friday.

The statement said protesters “chose to expand the encampment after 11 p.m. Therefore, on Saturday we again made the decision to enforce university policy and remove tents and other temporary structures. The Indiana State Police provided the additional manpower needed to address heightened levels of potential threats.”

However, the statement does not include what those potential threats might be, beyond saying there were concerns about it taxing “limited public safety resources” and that encampments like it allegedly “become magnets for those making threats of violence or who may not have the best interest of Indiana University in mind.”

A protester’s sign at Dunn Meadow on April 26, 2024, reads, “HEART OF CAMPUS = WHITTEN’S GUN RANGE” in response to a sharp shooter positioned on the roof of the Indiana Memorial Union the day before. (Olivia Oliver)

POLICY IMPLEMENTATION GOING FORWARD
Whitten and Shrivastav added that “we are moving quickly to partner with faculty, staff, and students to look for long-term solutions.”

The statement said Sunday afternoon, Shrivastav “met with student leaders from Union Board and IU Student Government, as well as the President-Elect of the Bloomington Faculty Council, among others” to discuss making a “taskforce of student leaders and representatives of the Bloomington Faculty Council to review our event protocols and make recommendations to guide activities on campus, particularly in Dunn Meadow, moving forward.”

However, Greene said the offer to be involved in these conversations has not extended to the IU Palestinian Solidarity Committee or IU Divestment Coalition, the groups largely responsible for organizing the protests and encampments.

IU Union Board President Laurie Frederickson shared strong words in a statement following the letter from the IU President and IU Provost.

“We met with the Provost [Sunday], but our presence there was simply so that the Provost could say he included students,” Frederickson said. “Our voices and desires are not reflected by the decision that was released, and once again this is a display of his facade of shared governance when he is really a unilateral decision maker. What is described in the email is neither factually nor existentially accurate. I look forward to sharing real information with the students as I actually hold myself to a standard of accountability and transparency”

The statement also said the administration has received a request from a student organization to set up temporary structures in Dunn Meadow, but Greene said it was not submitted by anyone with authority in either the IU Divestment Coalition or IUPSC. Greene also said that the person has since rescinded the form and does not plan to submit another. He said part of the reason there was confusion was because the university said the name attached to the form is the person responsible for any issues that arrive with the event.

IUSTV News has reached out to the Union Board leadership, IU Student Government, as well as the President-Elect of the Bloomington Faculty Council, but have not received any responses.


A common concern amongst graduating seniors is the possible cancellation of this year’s commencement ceremony.

Some universities, like the University of Southern California have already cancelled planned graduation events over safety concerns, according to the Associated Press.

However, Whitten and Shrivastav made no mention of a possible cancellation, as of Sunday night.


The full statement from Whitten and Shrivastav can be read below:

Dear Members of the IUB Community,

Over the last several days, our campus community has faced considerable challenges and wrestled with complex questions. Put simply, the events of recent days have been difficult, disturbing and emotional.

Against that backdrop, we write today to provide you with an enhanced understanding of the university’s actions and to outline the beginning of what we believe can be a path forward.

First, our campus—like so many others—has experienced the escalation of a national movement on numerous college campuses to erect encampments and occupy universities indefinitely. Such un-regulated encampments raise concerns for us as stewards of the campus because they tax limited public safety resources and become magnets for those making threats of violence or who may not have the best interest of Indiana University in mind. Additionally, this movement also coincides with a troubling rise in antisemitism nationally and on college campuses. Specifically, antisemitic episodes have been linked to this national encampment campaign. It was in this unique context that we appointed the ad hoc committee and charged them to modernize our protocols for the presence of overnight structures in Dunn Meadow to address this contemporary issue.

Second, at the same time, our commitment to free speech is—and must continue to be—unwavering. Everyone has the right to peacefully rally or protest on our campus, and we will do our best to ensure that everyone can exercise these rights in a safe environment. Free speech on our campus will never be impeded. There have been no changes to the opportunities and rights for free expression on campus.

Third, in our decision to engage the IU Police Department and the Indiana State Police, we aimed to balance each of these concerns: legitimate safety concerns related to un-regulated encampments and our commitment to free speech. After standing down for 24 hours, we sought to give the protestors the opportunity to comply with policy, particularly the 1969 prohibition of tents after 11 p.m. They chose to expand the encampment after 11 p.m. Therefore, on Saturday we again made the decision to enforce university policy and remove tents and other temporary structures. The Indiana State Police provided the additional manpower needed to address heightened levels of potential threats.

This was not a decision we made lightly. Protestors were encouraged before and during the process of dismantling the tents to step aside to avoid arrest, and most did. They were also encouraged to remain in Dunn Meadow after the dismantling of the encampments to continue their protest, which most did.

Importantly, we encourage those members of our community detained for trespass to engage in the appeals process by contacting the IUPD. In nearly all cases, trespass ban orders preventing students or faculty from visiting campus will be halted during the appeals process. This will allow these students and faculty to complete the semester.

Fourth, we recognize that this is not the kind of action that any of us want to see on this campus moving forward. We will always prioritize safety for everyone on our campus. Yet, we are moving quickly to partner with faculty, staff, and students to look for long-term solutions. We are already in dialogue with members of the IUB community and are grateful to many who have offered their insights, counsel, and constructive criticism. Just this afternoon, Provost Shrivastav met with student leaders from Union Board and IU Student Government, as well as the President-Elect of the Bloomington Faculty Council, among others. With their insight, we are in the process of appointing a taskforce of student leaders and representatives of the Bloomington Faculty Council to review our event protocols and make recommendations to guide activities on campus, particularly in Dunn Meadow, moving forward.

In compliance with the existing policy, we have already received—and are in the process of approving—a formal request from a student organization to setup temporary structures in Dunn Meadow. This request will be contingent on a set of mutually agreed parameters. We anticipate the request to be approved—with the possibility of renewal—in 48-hour increments.

In closing, we offer our thanks to countless faculty, staff and students who have worked tirelessly to support free speech and ensure the safety of the IUB community. We look forward to and appreciate your continued engagement. It is our belief that conversations this weekend have laid an important foundation for ongoing and productive dialogue on our campus.

It is our hope that we can come together with our common desire to create solutions that will continue to strengthen the safety of our campus while protecting the rights of free speech.

IU President Pamela Whitten and Provost Rahul Shrivastav