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

Institution(s):Ohio State University

Region & Country:Americas | United States of America

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 25, 2024, police arrested 36 people, including 16 students, at a pro-Palestinian encampment outside the student union at Ohio State University.

A group of students affiliated with the university’s group of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Ohio Arab community established the encampment on the South Oval of Ohio State University. The protesters called for the university to divest from companies that supply military equipment and have business ties with Israel.

On the afternoon of April 25, university authorities instructed students to disperse, stating that university rules prohibit camping on campus. Around 10 p.m. that day, Ohio State Police and State Highway Patrol troopers ordered students to remove the encampment, warning that they faced arrest and criminal trespassing charges if they refused to leave. Shortly thereafter, while a number of Muslim students gathered for evening prayer with other students forming a protective chain around those who were praying, police surrounded them and began arresting them.

One student reported suffering bruised ribs after being grabbed by her headscarf and pushed to the ground by officers. During the process, around 40 individuals, including graduates, undergraduates, staff members, and non-affiliates of the university, were arrested.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the forcible arrest of students in retaliation for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression—conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments and the constitution of the United States. While state authorities have the responsibility to maintain order and prevent disruption, they have an obligation to respect and refrain from prosecuting nonviolent students for exercising their academic freedom and right to freedom of expression. Similarly, university authorities should strive to prevent disruptions that inappropriately impede the functioning of higher education, while adhering to their duty to ensure academic freedom and free expression on campus. In addition to harming the immediate victims, such actions have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.