Open Letter from Indiana University Bloomington Faculty re: Campus Protests and Arrests

Open Letter from Indiana University Bloomington Faculty

To: The Indiana University Board of Trustees, Indiana University Alumni,  and Concerned Citizens of the State of Indiana

As faculty members of Indiana University Bloomington, we are appalled and ashamed by the militarized response to the peaceful campus protests against Israel’s war in Gaza. President Whitten and Provost Shrivastav authorized an unnecessarily aggressive reaction first on Thursday, April 25, and again on Saturday, April 27. Many of us have been direct witnesses as Indiana State Police brutalized and arrested unarmed students and fellow faculty colleagues holding an entirely peaceful rally on Dunn Meadow. Rally participants were  expressing their rights to freedom of speech and assembly: two of the most basic principles of US democracy and American higher education.

By action of the Trustees in 1969 and under a policy created by an appointed faculty committee in 1989, Dunn Meadow is a dedicated free speech and assembly area on campus with a long history of peaceful protest, including encampments in 1991 during the Gulf War. The “ad hoc committee” decision on April 24th to revise the Dunn Meadow free speech and assembly policy BL-ACA-I18 was clearly done to disadvantage and discriminate against a group based on their viewpoint, violating well-established First Amendment law.

The student organizers of the protest come to this public space on campus with nothing more than food, provisional tents, music, art, prayer, and chants. The Indiana State Police come with orders from President Whitten and Provost Shrivastav in full riot gear: they bear automatic weapons, carry tear gas and batons, and position snipers with guns aimed directly at students from the rooftop of the Indiana Memorial Union. Faculty have watched as students and colleagues were beaten to the ground, some hogtied as if they were animals, despite their lack of resistance in the face of arrest.  We have witnessed heavily armed police officers kick, punch, tackle, body slam, and beat students. We have also seen police explicitly target and arrest some of the more vocal organizers of the protest – many of whom are students of color - even when they were not on the front line of those protecting the encampment. This force was not used because the protesters were violent or provocative; its sole justification was President Whitten’s decision that tents and signs were symbols too dangerous to tolerate.

This outrageous violation of the safety and well-being of our university community must stop now, before someone is killed.

This latest and most egregiously shameful display of President Whitten’s and Provost Shrivastav’s ineptitude and lack of moral compass follows in the wake of the IUB Faculty’s Vote of No Confidence on April 16, 2024. Out of nearly 900 voting faculty members, 93% expressed no confidence in President Whitten and 91% expressed no confidence in Provost Shrivastav.

The President’s and Provost’s decision to authorize unprovoked, violent, armed attacks on the very students and faculty they are supposed to protect proves without question that they have neither the administrative competence nor the basic human decency required to lead this campus and university.

We demand that President Whitten and Provost Shrivastav resign immediately or be terminated.