An Open Letter to Indiana University President Pamela Whitten and Indiana University Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Rahul Shrivastav

The following was shared with the Bloomingtonian:

An Open Letter to Indiana University President Pamela Whitten and
Indiana University Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Rahul Shrivastav
Monday, April 29, 2024
We, the undersigned Bloomington City Council Members, are writing to express our common
opinion regarding recent actions of the Indiana University administration in regard to peaceful
demonstrations in Dunn Meadow on the Indiana University Bloomington campus. Since 1969,
IU policy has allowed peaceful demonstrations in Dunn Meadow, including those using tents
and signs, on a broad range of issues. On April 24, 2024, one day prior to a planned rally,
President Pamela Whitten convened an ad-hoc committee to review and rapidly change these
long standing rules and norms regarding free speech in Dunn Meadow.
According to President Whitten’s letter to faculty members the following day: “The committee
affirmed the right of peaceful protest, with the additional recommendation that temporary or
permanent installation of structures in Dunn Meadow (including, but not limited to posters, tents,
etc.) at any time must be approved in advance by the university and, if approved, adhere to the
guidelines provided by the university.” President Whitten followed through on these
recommendations to change the policy. These changes were made without transparency or
adequate process to involve affected stakeholders, including IU faculty, staff, and students, most
of whom are residents of Bloomington.
This change is a severe departure from over 50 years of IU policy, as well as IU and
Bloomington community norms regarding free speech and nonviolent protest. The context under
which the new policy was instituted indicates that the new rules were meant to directly target the
April 25 rally and its subject matter, violating Bloomington residents’ First Amendment rights. We
denounce these actions and demand that the new policy be immediately rescinded.
We understand that President Whitten requested that Indiana State Police enforce the newly
revised policies regarding daytime tents in Dunn Meadow on April 25 and on subsequent days.
According to the many videos and photos taken during the protests, and the reports from people
at the scene, the Indiana State Police response used force far in excess of what was necessary
to enforce the new campus rules. The large number of police officers, the weapons displayed
and used by the officers, and their forceful actions to arrest protesters only served to escalate
the situation. Their violent response to peaceful protest is unacceptable. We demand that no
criminal charges be brought against peaceful protesters, that related bans from the IUB
campus be immediately revoked, and that all disciplinary charges against peaceful
protesters in the IU system be dropped.
We, as elected representatives of the residents of Bloomington (including IU students, faculty,
and staff), decry the display of and use of force by the Indiana State Police during the rally as
well as the IU administration’s denial of free speech rights in Dunn Meadow. We want our
residents to be safe, especially as they exercise their civil liberties. We swore an oath to uphold
the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment. The actions of IU President Whitten’s
administration in recent days have been harmful to our community. We expect better.
Bloomington deserves better.
Isabel Piedmont-Smith, District 1, President
Andy Ruff, At Large, Vice President
Matt Flaherty, At Large
Kate Rosenbarger, District 2
Hopi Stosberg, District 3, Parliamentarian
Dave Rollo, District 4
Courtney Daily, District 5
Sydney Zulich, District 6

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