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 25, 2024

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Loss of Position | Violence

Institution(s):Indiana University - Bloomington

Region & Country:Americas | United States of America

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 25 and 27, 2024, police arrested 56 protesters, including students and faculty members, at a pro-Palestinian encampment on the campus of the Indiana University (IU) at Bloomington. The arrested students and faculty members were banned from campus for a period of one year.

On April 24, after learning that a group of students planned to establish a pro-Palestinian encampment in IU’s Dunn Meadow, IU Provost Rahul Shrivastav formed an ad-hoc committee comprised of a small group of IU administrators, including President Pamela Whitten. The ad-hoc committee changed the university’s assembly ground policy to prohibit the “temporary or permanent installation of outdoor structures” without approval from the administration and to prohibit the use of “signage” and “tents.” The administration did not send a university-wide message announcing the changes, but instead made the changes directly to the university undergraduate events website and posted a physical copy of the new policy on the lawn where the students planned to gather.

On the morning of April 25, a few dozen students and other IU community members set up around a dozen tents on the lawn of Dunn Meadow. The group stated that they planned to remain at the encampment until the university leadership met their demands, including cutting ties with a nearby US Navy base; the resignation of Whitten, Shrivastav, and Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs Carrie Docherty; the disclosure of financial investments and divestment from companies with financial ties to Israel; and the termination of other partnerships with Israeli institutions.

Around early afternoon, the IU Police Department (IUPD), state police, and IU’s Demonstration Response Team, who were present at the protest, asked the protesters to leave. A couple of hours later, after the protesters refused to take down their camp, Indiana State Troopers arrived and marched on the encampment. The police team included a sniper who was placed on the Indiana Memorial Union roof. The situation turned violent as the troopers clashed with protesters. Thirty-four people were arrested, including three faculty members and 23 current students.

The following day, April 26, protesters re-established their encampment in Dunn Meadow. While state police were present on campus, no arrests were made that day. The protest continued on April 27. By early afternoon, state police had returned to campus and detained 23 people, including one faculty member, 2 staff members, and 14 students, including the leaders of the encampment, Aidan Khamis and Bryce Greene.

Nearly 56 people were arrested for suspected misdemeanors, including criminal trespass. As of May 3, the local prosecutor’s office had declined to file charges against all arrested except for one student who was charged with felony battery for biting a state trooper on the write and attempting to flee. IU banned all people arrested from campus for a period of one year, except for protest leader Bryce Greene, who was banned for five years. The university encouraged those banned from campus to appeal their bans with IUPD, stating that the bans would be temporarily suspended during the appeals process, allowing students and faculty to complete the rest of the semester. On May 3, IUPD notified Green that his ban would not be stayed. Also on May 3, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana filed a lawsuit against IU for violating the First Amendment Rights of three plaintiffs, including one faculty member and one graduate student.

Students and faculty continued to protest on IU’s campus without further arrests during the days that followed.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the forcible arrests of students and faculty members, based on a request by the university, and about a university banning students and faculty from campus for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. 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. Moreover, university policies with respect to campus protest and related activities should be well-communicated to the university community, and any changes thereto should be implemented in as open, public, and transparent a manner as practicable, with sufficient avenues for comment provided to all community members. The punishment of nonviolent student and faculty expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.

Sources:
https://www.chronicle.com/article/some-professors-face-punishments-as-colleges-crack-down-on-gaza-protests
https://www.idsnews.com/article/2024/04/scenes-day-five-gaza-encampment-indiana-university-protests-on-campus-pro-palestinian
https://indianapublicmedia.org/news/pro-palestine-coalition-sets-up-camp-at-iu.php
https://indianapublicmedia.org/news/live-second-day-of-protests-on-iu-campus.php
https://indianapublicmedia.org/news/prosecutor-no-charges-filed-against-those-arrested-at-dunn-meadow-protests.php
https://www.chronicle.com/article/im-a-professor-i-never-expected-to-be-arrested-by-my-own-university
https://www.insidehighered.com/news/faculty-issues/academic-freedom/2024/04/30/police-clear-encampments-professors-end-zip-tied
https://www.insidehighered.com/news/students/free-speech/2024/04/30/indiana-protest-policy-change-raises-free-speech-concerns
https://www.indystar.com/story/news/2024/04/27/reports-state-police-dismantle-protest-camp-at-iu-arrest-23/73484429007/

https://mesana.org/advocacy/committee-on-academic-freedom/2024/05/06/letter-to-indiana-university-protesting-the-banning-from-campus-of-professor-david-mcdonald
https://aaup.sitehost.iu.edu/reports/Dunn_Meadow_Statement.pdf
https://www.aclu-in.org/en/press-releases/aclu-indiana-sues-indiana-university-behalf-protesters-banned-campus-one-year