University Leaders Stand by Agreements with Student Protesters

( – Two university presidents have been slated by House Republicans over agreements made with protesters in order to disband anti-Israel encampments.

Republican North Carolina Representative Virginia Foxx, who is the House Education and the Workforce Chair, said the deals were “egregious” and “disgraceful”. Rutgers University President John Holloway and Northwestern University President Michael Schill defended their decisions to grant protesters amnesty, discuss school investments and support scholarships for Palestinian students. Foxx told the university leaders that they should be “ashamed” of their decisions and of allowing Jewish students to be endangered by the encampments. She added that they should be “doubly ashamed” of making concessions to “antisemitic rulebreakers”.

Republicans called for disciplinary action against Holloway and Schill. Both presidents hit back at the scrutiny they received from lawmakers; Holloway took issue with the Republicans painting the protesters as a “mob” and Schill explicitly stated that he would not talk about hypothetical scenarios or discuss specific students or faculties. Holloway replied to Republican Pennsylvania Representative Lloyd Smucker’s claim that he caved to a mob’s demands by stating that he was speaking to students, not negotiating with a mob.

The grilling of the two presidents follows protests across the country calling on universities to divest from Israel due to its handling of the war in Gaza, which has killed over 35,000 people in response to Hamas’ October 7 attacks. Sonoma State University President Mike Lee announced his retirement in May after he was placed on administrative leave over his “insubordination” in sending out a campus-wide memo revealing agreements he had made with protestors without seeking “appropriate approvals”. SSU Chancellor Mildred García explained that Lee was placed on leave because of the effect the decisions had on the university’s system. Lee had announced in the memo that efforts would be made to pursue divestment from Israel and to include protesters in the university’s decision-making.

Gene Block, Chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles, also testified at the panel’s hearing. Block has been criticized for the UCLA’s handling of protests on campus, which included escalating violence between Pro-Palestine Protesters and Pro-Israel counter-protesters and a delayed response from the police. Jewish students claimed to have been harassed. The Pro-Palestine protesters reported, however, that the masked counter-protesters violently assaulted them when they arrived, and that the police stood by and watched. The Police Chief John Thomas was removed following the backlash.

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