Indiana University Faces Backlash Over Misconduct Charges Against Pro-Palestine Protesters; Activists Issue Statements in Protest

FILE PHOTO — BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – APRIL 27: Police arrest activist Bryce Greene on the third day of a pro-Palestinian protest camp in Dunn Meadow at Indiana University on April 27, 2024 in Bloomington, Indiana. At least twelve people were arrested after police told them thier tents were illegal, and had to be taken down. The protester refused to take down the tents, so the Indiana State Police swat team forced the protesters from the camp, and arrested several in the process. Greene, a grad student, has been banned from campus for five years. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

Written as background for the two statements that follow:

Bloomington, IN (July 11, 2024) – Indiana University (IU) is facing criticism from activist groups following its decision to pursue misconduct charges against student protesters advocating for Palestinian rights, and a proposal on rules for campus free speech by the university board of trustees and IU administation, including embattled President Pamela Whitten. This move comes after the Monroe County prosecutor’s office declined to charge any protesters arrested for “criminal trespassing” at Dunn Meadow, citing the “constitutionally dubious process” of the arrests.

On the same day as the prosecutor’s announcement, the IU Office of Student Conduct launched a campaign to charge student protesters with “personal misconduct” violations for earlier protests.

Whitten faced a vote of no confidence by IU faculty a few days before Indiana State police riot troopers were brought in to arrest 57 students and activists at a protest camp against the Israel-Hamas War being waged in Gaza. The war, which began after an attack by Hamas, which left around 1200-Israeli’s dead, and over 200 kidnapped by militants, has been a subject of protest at some universities in the United States, including IU. The war waged by Israel has left about 40,000 Palestinians dead, many of them civilians, and children, according to Palestinian sources. On the contrary, some Jewish students on campus have expressed that the ongoing protest is making them feel less safe.

The following statements were sent to the Bloomingtonian Thursday:

Statement on misconduct proceedings
At the end of May, the Monroe County prosecutor’s office declined to charge any
pro-Palestine protesters arrested for “criminal trespassing” at Dunn Meadow,
citing the “constitutionally dubious process” of the arrests. The same day as the
prosecutor’s announcement, the Office of Student Conduct at IU immediately
began an aggressive campaign to charge student protesters with “personal
misconduct” violations for protests earlier in the year. The rushed and haphazard
nature of this campaign quickly became clear, since many of the students
charged could prove that they were not involved in specific events. If students
are found responsible for breaking IU policies, penalties could be as severe as
expulsion.
This is part of a pattern. Indiana University has a history of targeting voices that
speak out for Palestine and Palestinians, violating its own policies as well as the
civil rights of its students and faculty. Last fall, IU administrators suspended a
tenured professor because of his work with pro-Palestine groups—a process
later acknowledged by faculty review to be in violation of the university’s own
policies. Later that semester, the university invoked dubious security concerns to
cancel the long-awaited art exhibit of a world-renowned Palestinian artist.
Undergraduate students, graduate students, and even faculty have all voiced
their disdain for this administration’s suppression of dissent through votes of no
confidence. However, it is clear that its commitment to supporting genocide
outweighs any educational mission this institution claims to have. We are calling
on IU to end its campaign of persecution against student organizers. We would
also like to reiterate our demands: The resignations of President Whitten, Provost
Shrivastav and Vice Provost Docherty; Divestment from Israel and Israeli
institutions; and Ending the NSA Crane Partnership.
Signed,
IU Divestment Coalition
IU Bloomington Palestine Solidarity Committee
IU Indianapolis Palestine Solidarity Committee
Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition
IU Academics for Justice in Palestine
Indiana Jewish Voice for Peace


Over the last several months, the administration of Indiana University has taken unprecedented
measures to stifle the free speech of its students, faculty, alumni, and community, particularly
those protesting the genocide in Gaza and IU’s involvement in funding that genocide. The
administration has had peaceful protesters violently arrested, banned from campus, dragged
through misconduct hearings (often for entirely spurious charges), and intimidated through the
use of threats and slander. The new Expressive Activity Policy proposed by the Board of
Trustees represents the latest in a line of actions intended to limit the free speech of the IU
community.
Although touted as a neutral policy, the proposed policy is anything but neutral. It clearly
targets the recent activities of pro-Palestinian protesters, particularly in its prohibition of
temporary structures, signs and writing, and overnight camping. Additionally, its prohibition of
expression near buildings appears to be targeting the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition, who
went on strike in April to campaign for living wages and union recognition. The definition of
“Expressive Activity” is vague enough that it could be used to justify penalties against any
student or faculty organization or gathering on campus. As it is clearly not the university’s
intention to eliminate all campus activities, it can be assumed that they intend to enforce this
policy in a biased fashion, leveraging it only against groups or activities that they disagree with
or that they see as criticizing or inconveniencing the university.

The following regulations are particularly concerning:
 Point (3) states that temporary structures must be requested and approved 10 days
prior to an event. This is too far in advance, as expressive activity is often responding to
current events that cannot be predicted 10 or more days ahead of time. Additionally,
the added restriction that structures must adhere to the guidelines provided by the
University (which are not included in the document) and be approved by various
University departments means that even when requested in a timely manner, structures
may be denied. If past experience is any indication, these denials will be targeted
toward speech that criticizes the university or advocates for a cause that is unpopular
within IU administration. Theoretically, the policy as written would also ban the use of
signs, tables, portable toilets, and other structures used for club events, tailgating, and
other activities. 
 Both points (3) and (4) limit freestanding modes of nonverbal expression, stating that
signs, writing, projections, and other forms of expression are not allowed on any
university structure or property, essentially eliminating any form of expressive activity
that is not spoken aloud or directly carried by a person at all times.
 Point (5) states that overnight camping is not a form of expressive activity, ignoring a
long history of overnight camping as a form of protest and overturning a policy that has
existed at the University since 1969. At IU, overnight camping has been used as a form
of expressive activity by students protesting the Vietnam War, Gulf War, and apartheid
South Africa, all of whom held encampments in Dunn Meadow. Again, the inclusion of

this newly formed restriction is clearly targeting the current protests calling for an end
to IU’s investment in the genocide of Palestinians.
 Point (6) prohibits expressive activity within 25 feet of the entrances of campus
buildings, so as to not to block ingress or egress. Expressive activity often interferes with
vehicular or pedestrian traffic, but rarely if ever prevents people from reaching their
destinations. This section seems designed to drive demonstrators away from buildings
entirely, and establishing a 25-foot radius from all buildings and facilities as out-of-
bounds eliminates large portions of campus from being usable at all for expressive
activity. This restriction would eliminate the ability of the Grad Workers Coalition to
establish picket lines or give speeches in front of campus buildings, and would also
prohibit sit-ins, another historic method of protest.
 The rule limiting expressive activity to the hours between 6 AM and 11 PM is an obvious
and arbitrary restriction on free speech, which is not intended to take place only during
times of day that are easiest to police it.
Finally, we are deeply concerned with the severity of the sanctions this policy threatens for
those who may violate it. These sanctions are excessively harsh, starting with citation, trespass,
and/or suspension from campus as the lightest sanction listed. Whereas the 1969 policy
prohibited the use of physical force to enforce its rules, the proposed new policy includes no
such protection. This gives the university license to use physical force, such as calling in armed
police and a sniper as they did this past April, to stifle free speech on campus.
We call upon the Board of Trustees to reject this outrageous attack on free speech and campus
safety. Expressive activity has always been a hallmark of college campuses and is one of the
factors that marks universities as places of true learning and civic engagement. The passage of
this policy would not only hobble the ability of IU students, faculty, alumni, and staff to be
engaged citizens, but would also threaten all campus organizations and activities, which would
be forced to operate with the constant threat of surveillance and severe penalties for any
missteps.

Signed,
IU Divestment Coalition
IU Bloomington Palestine Solidarity Committee
IU Indianapolis Palestine Solidarity Committee
Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition

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