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Tuesday, May 28
The Indiana Daily Student

campus administration

After Whitten’s listening session, IUPD threatens pro-Palestinian protesters with arrest for chanting in IMU


About 15 pro-Palestinian protesters from the Gaza encampment in Dunn Meadow stood outside the Federal Room in the Indiana Memorial Union to protest a listening session IU President Pamela Whitten hosted Tuesday afternoon with the College of Arts and Sciences. Protesters have been peacefully occupying Dunn Meadow for 20 days, demanding the Whitten administration financially divest from Israel. 

“Our president is supposed to represent us,” Elena Nissan Thomas told the Indiana Daily Student on her way to the Federal Room.  

Vicka Bell-Robinson, IU associate vice provost for involvement and belonging, and Benjamin Hunter, IU Superintendent for Public Safety, both spoke with protesters separately, telling the protesters they would be arrested if they did not stop chanting in the IMU hallway after the listening session had ended. 

Eventually, protesters decided to leave, chanting while they exited the IMU. 

What happened after the listening session? 

The protesters gathered quietly outside the IMU’s Federal Room during the listening session but began chanting pro-Palestinian slogans and calls for IU to divest from Israel after the event concluded. 

"Disclose! Divest! We will not stop, we will not rest!” they chanted in the IMU hallway.  

Bell-Robinson began issuing warnings once protesters started chanting, and she claimed the protesters were being disruptive in the IMU — which is against university policy. During this first interaction, she told the protesters the IU Police Department was on their way.  

A protester said no one had given them a warning yet or told them to stop chanting before the police were called.  

The protesters resumed chanting, which prompted Bell-Robinson to issue another warning and explain IU’s free speech policies. According to IU policy, free speech and assembly activities on campus must not interfere with or disrupt “classes in session or other scheduled programs or events,” “the normal or scheduled use of university property or the functioning of the university,” or “employ unreasonable sound amplification or create unreasonable noise disruptive of normal university business or activities.” 

The protesters accused authorities of selectively enforcing IU policy. They said during the encampment, counter protesters yelled at them, threatened them and called them slurs, but authorities did not stop them. The IDS has witnessed and confirmed these types of incidents at the encampment. 

“Where were you guys then?” a protester asked Bell-Robinson. 

Bell-Robinson claimed IU policies were content neutral, and she was warning the protesters only because their way of protesting was disruptive and violating IU policy.  

The protesters thanked Bell-Robinson for her explanation and started chanting again.  

Bell-Robinson came back to give them one final warning, saying they could be arrested for trespass if they did not leave immediately, and if they are IU students, they could be suspended.  

Bell-Robinson brought in Hunter, who clarified for the protesters that, if they were to continue chanting and yelling in the IMU hallways, they would be arrested. He said they were allowed to silently protest and remain in the hallway; however, chanting, yelling or screaming constituted a disruption according to IU policy. 

“You can go outside and chant all day long,” Hunter said.  

"Where outside?” a protester asked. “Because on Dunn Meadow we were, and like 50 people got arrested.” 

Since the encampment began April 25, IUPD and the Indiana State Police have forcefully arrested 57 peaceful protesters. 

Protesters spoke with Hunter for around ten minutes about this university policy and what kind of protest was allowed before asking if they could exit the building and chant without being arrested. He said they would not be arrested if they walked out. 

By this point, several IUPD officers and personnel stood down the hallway watching the event unfold, including Interim Division Chief Margo Bennett. 

Protesters then decided to walk out of the building chanting similar pro-Palestinian slogans and return to the encampment in Dunn Meadow. 

What was the event? 

In an email obtained by the IDS and sent to the chairs and directors of the College of Arts and Sciences on Sunday, Executive Dean Rick Van Kooten wrote that Whitten offered to meet with College faculty in the Federal Room from 1-2:30 p.m. Tuesday and 9-10:30 a.m. Wednesday. 

On Monday, Van Kooten sent an email to all College faculty and staff about the meetings, saying only the chairs and directors and a few of their colleagues could attend due to limited space. He wrote that he would like to hold a larger town hall meeting so all faculty and staff could attend. 

“I am committed to understanding how I can best serve the Bloomington campus community. Your views are important and I invite you to talk with me and share your suggestions and feedback,” Whitten told Van Kooten, according to the email. 

In an email obtained by the IDS, Anastasia Morrone, dean of the IU School of Education, wrote Tuesday to the school’s faculty, saying Whitten would like to meet with them at 9 a.m. Thursday in the IMU to get feedback on how to improve things at IU Bloomington. Morrone also said Whitten is meeting with faculty in “various” schools. 

Mark Bode, IU executive director of media relations, provided the following statement to the IDS about the listening sessions: 

“President Whitten has heard the feedback of members of the IU community and has committed to listening and learning through ongoing meetings with faculty and staff.”

IUPD Public Information Officer Hannah Skibba was not immediately available for comment. 

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