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Friday, June 21
The Indiana Daily Student

campus administration

UPDATE: Student leaders denounce Whitten, Shrivastav’s first signed statement on protests


IU President Pamela Whitten and Provost Rahul Shrivastav released a statement Sunday evening addressing the IU Police Department and Indiana State Police’s clearings of pro-Palestinian encampments and forceful arrests of peaceful protesters in Dunn Meadow on Thursday and Saturday. This is the first time Whitten or Shrivastav have publicly commented on the escalating conflict. 

In the letter, Whitten and Shrivastav said, “the events of recent days have been difficult, disturbing and emotional.”  

ISP forcibly arrested 33 protesters Thursday and 23 more Saturday. They also have deconstructed two encampments and confiscated their materials. 

They also said that encampments such as the one in Dunn Meadow become “magnets for those making threats of violence or who may not have the best interest of Indiana University at heart.” 

The IDS cannot confirm any instances of violence initiated by protesters from the encampment. The statement also did not specifically mention the police’s forceful and aggressive arrests of IU students and faculty. 

The statement said they are moving quickly to partner with faculty, staff, and students to look for long-term solutions. 

“We recognize that this is not the kind of action that any of us want to see on this campus moving forward,” the statement read. 

Whitten and Shrivastav said in the letter Shrivastav met with student leaders from Union Board and IU Student Government, along with president-elect Danielle DeSawal of the Bloomington Faculty Council, to discuss event protocols. 

Laurie Frederickson, president of the Union Board, released the following statement to the IDS: 

“We met with the Provost this morning, but our presence there was simply so that the Provost could say he included students. 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 read. 

IUSG President Cooper Tinsley echoed a similar sentiment in a statement to the IDS.  

“It is imperative to clarify that the email regarding the recent meeting supposedly aimed at engaging student leaders in meaningful dialogue is extremely misleading. Contrary to the claims made in the President’s email, our concerns and demands were not genuinely addressed. It should be clear that WE had to reach out to the Provost to schedule this meeting, not the other way around. Both the Provost and the President misrepresented the situation by suggesting the development of tangible resolutions, which is factually inaccurate. The Provost instead presented options each with its own loophole to put student safety at risk again by bringing state police back on campus. It is evident that our participation was leveraged solely to bolster a favorable image of the administration. I no longer have confidence in this administration's ability to work with students in good faith as we student leaders have been left feeling extremely used,” the statement read. 

In an email to faculty Monday, DeSawal called the events of the last few days “disturbing" and expressed disappointment with the results of her meeting with Shrivastav on Sunday, which Whitten referenced in an email to the IU community

While DeSawal wrote that participants “shared the space in good faith,” the two goals of the meeting — revoking the change to policy and ensuring state police would no longer engage with protesters — were not achieved. 

“While we were able to have productive conversations, I am disappointed in the early release of the message to provide an update, as it was sent without review of anyone who was in the meeting,” she wrote. “That has resulted in additional confusion and more mistrust in our ability to move forward collectively with the administration. It saddens me deeply to have to share that viewpoint.” 

DeSawal also confirmed that the BFC was not involved in the ad hoc committee nor the creation of the updated policy, as recommended by a section of the original policy. She criticized the lack of clarity regarding how students could gain approval for the structures on the signs placed in Dunn Meadow the morning of the protest Thursday and the impracticality of asking students to gain approval for an event scheduled the day after the policy requiring approval was created. The use of force by state police, she wrote, was done without consultation from students, the BFC or the two ad hoc committee members present at the meeting. 

The ad hoc committee consisted of four administrators according to faculty sources and multiple media outlets. They include Superintendent for Public Safety Benjamin Hunter, Associate Vice President of Events and Conferences Doug Booher, Vice Provost for Student Life Lamar Hylton and Vasti Torres, the interim vice provost for undergraduate education.  

DeSawal concluded her email with a commitment to represent the voices of faculty when trying to find a path forward. 

The release also discusses free speech policies on campus. 

“There have been no changes to the opportunities and rights for free expression on campus,” the email reads. 

This statement is inaccurate — IU did change its free expression rights on campus when the “Ad Hoc Committee” made a policy change the day before the encampment began, which an IU law professor who studies free speech took issue with. 

Since 1969, IU Bloomington policy allowed use of temporary structures in Dunn Meadow without prior approval, except from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. IU changed the policy to ban unapproved structures without prior approval the night before the IU Divestment Coalition set up their encampment Thursday. 

The 1969 policy recommended that an ad hoc committee should be created to review denials of permission for uncarried overnight signs, symbols or structures. It continued to say the committee should be composed of the President of IUSA, now known as IUSG, the President pro tem of the Bloomington Faculty Council and a member designated by the Provost. 

The policy was posted online Thursday morning. Steve Sanders, a Maurer School of Law professor, previously told the IDS the timing allows people to reasonably infer the change was targeted to disadvantage a particular viewpoint. 

“When you change a policy like that literally on the eve of an event you’re expecting, you can no longer say that’s a neutral policy,” he said in an interview with the IDS on Thursday. 

Generally, restrictions on free speech must be viewpoint neutral under the First Amendment. 

Whitten and Shrivastav said they appointed the “Ad Hoc Committee” in response to their concerns over alleged antisemitic incidents across the country.  

Whitten and Shrivastav said the encampment campaign coincides with a rise in antisemitism across the country and university, and antisemitic incidents have been linked with the movement. The statement provides no specific evidence of antisemitic incidents on IU’s campus. The IDS is reaching out to the university for more clarity on these claims. 

There have been reports on social media and expressed to IDS reporters of both antisemitic and Islamophobic violence on campus this semester, including in the last four days. The IDS is working to confirm these reports. 

Whitten and Shrivastav also addressed the decisions to order Indiana State Police to take down the encampments. They cited balancing “legitimate safety concerns related to un-regulated encampments and our commitment to free speech” in the email. 

“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.,” the email read. "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 email also said ISP provided additional manpower “to address heightened levels of potential threats.” It did not provide any specific examples of threats. 

Whitten and Shrivastav did not comment in the email on their decision to involve Indiana State Police on Thursday prior to 11 p.m. Police have been unable to confirm who the initial call came from but have verified that IU called them for assistance.  

ISP arrested 56 protesters in total at Dunn Meadow on Thursday and Saturday, officially charging them with criminal trespass. IUPD also issued arrested protesters a ban from campus property of at least one year, with one of the encampment's leaders, Bryce Greene, receiving a ban of five years. 

Whitten and Shrivastav encouraged those who were arrested and banned from campus during the IUPD and ISP clearings to appeal their cases, in which the bans will temporarily be halted for most cases. 

Some protesters who were banned from campus have struggled to contact IU about the appeals process.  

“It’s been a slow and frustrating process,” one protester said. “They won’t answer my calls.” 

Faculty from across the university have condemned the arrests. Nearly 200 faculty protested outside of Bryan Hall on Friday morning after the first day of arrests Thursday. At least six IU schools have released statements condemning or showing concern with the administration and ISP’s actions.  

On Sunday, Media School faculty released an open letter to the administration calling the move “authoritarian” and antithetical to the mission of higher learning.  

The Media School faculty’s letter called for the Bloomington Faculty Council to investigate possible violations of faculty governance, academic freedom, freedom of expression and due process.  

“It is critical that we expose the root of this shameful chapter in IU’s history,” the letter concludes.  

Whitten and Shrivastav said they have already received a request from a student organization to set up temporary structures in Dunn Meadow moving forward, and the university anticipates the request will be approved. They said the request will be approved based on “a set of mutually agreed parameters,” and groups will have the opportunity to renew the request in 48-hour increments. 

The IDS is confirming whether the 48-hour increment renewal is a new policy. 

Greene, a leader of the encampment, said a person not affiliated with the PSC or the IU Divestment Coalition filled out the request form, seemingly at the request of the administration. After the person filled out the form, the administration allegedly said the person would be personally responsible for the encampment, as their name was on the form, Greene said. The person then revoked their request.  

“Bottom line, the paragraph in Pam’s statement released moments ago about an organization getting approval for structures is untrue, and I apologize for any confusion this might have caused,” the person wrote in an email, Greene said. 

IU professor Abdulkader Sinno said Whitten’s email is an attempt to “justify acts that are unjustifiable against our own students.” 

Professor Abdulkader Sinno was suspended in November 2023 for allegedly misrepresenting an event organized by the PSC. His suspension was met with intense backlash from faculty and students who denounced it as an attack on academic freedom and free speech at IU.  

“It’s complete gaslighting,” he said. “It’s all just made up rhetoric, made up claims to pretend that she’s actually behaving responsibly when in fact she’s doing nothing of the kind.” 

Sinno said for the past four days, from around 10 a.m. to midnight, he has been alternating between sitting 50 feet away from the encampment to watch out for the students and going to the Monroe County Jail to support the arrested protesters. He said nothing hurts more than thinking of his students and colleagues being detained for speaking their minds.  

“We teach them to think for themselves and when they want to speak for themselves, we send the police,” Sinno said. 

IU Executive Director of Media Relations Mark Bode did not respond to a request for comment by publication.  

CLARIFICATION: This article has been clarified to reflect that only Provost Shrivastav met with student leaders from Union Board and IU Student Government and president-elect Danielle DeSawal of the Bloomington Faculty Council.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a statement from Bloomington Faculty Council president-elect Danielle DeSawal.

Editor's Note: Bryce Greene previously worked as an opinion columnist at the Indiana Daily Student.  

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