SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: April 22, 2024

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Yale University

Region & Country:Americas | United States of America

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 22, 2024, Yale University police officers arrested 48 protesters while dispersing students who had established a peaceful encampment in Beinecke Plaza, located on the university’s campus.

On April 19, a group of students established an encampment at Beinecke Plaza. The students called for Yale to disclose and divest from military weapons manufacturers, particularly those connected to Israel. Yale’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility (ACIR) had already decided against divestment from military weapons manufacturers.

In a university statement issued April 21, Yale’s President, Peter Salovey, noted that the protesters were violating university policy by “putting up structures, defying the directives of university officials, staying in campus spaces past allowed times, and other acts,” which would be met with “disciplinary actions according to [university] policies.” Salovey offered students the opportunity to meet with two board members–including a member of ACIR–in exchange for leaving the plaza. Students declined and remained in their encampment.

At around 7am local time on April 22, Yale University police officers began arresting students who had refused to disperse after being given warning early that morning. The police simultaneously began dismantling the encampment. In an email to the university community on April 23, a university spokesperson stated that among the 48 protesters arrested, 44 were current students. He explained the intervention by stating that police officers were called because of reports of “harmful acts and threatening language used against individuals at or near the protest sites.” Videos of the protest show the students chanting loudly but peacefully. The students were charged with criminal trespassing and could face disciplinary action, which could include probation or suspension.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrests of peaceful student protesters by university police. While university authorities have an obligation to take all reasonable measures to ensure the safety of students and university personnel and should endeavor to prevent disruptions that inappropriately inhibit the functioning of or access to higher education, they must do so consistent with their responsibility to ensure academic freedom and free expression on campus. The punishment of nonviolent student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.