May 23, 2024

CHICAGO — Northwestern University is facing at least two lawsuits and several resignations in the wake of its agreement with pro-Palestinian protestors to end the encampment on campus.

CAIR-Chicago joined hosted a press conference Thursday afternoon saying they stand in solidarity with the anti-war demonstrators protesting Israel’s war on Gaza.

CAIR Executive director Ahmed Rehab said the organizations stands with the peaceful, nonviolent movements for peace and justice for Palestinians and everyone else.

The organization says the students are filing a leadership void in this country whose current leaders are been corrupted by special-interest groups. Rehab says the encampments and protests are not antisemitic and are no different than the protests that took place throughout American history on college campuses, specifically for countries to divest from South Africa over apartheid.

They say it is not antisemitic to critique Israel’s policies.

On the other hand, groups calling for the school’s president to step down, seven members of the university’s advisory committee have resigned their posts.

Effi Benmelech is a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Up until Wednesday, he was co-chair of the university’s President’s Advisory Committee on Preventing Antisemitism and Hate.

“The encampment is still there, the tents are not there, but the chants are still there. Jewish students tell me they are afraid to walk by the encampment. Jewish students do not go to the library because they have to cross the encampment, even now,” Benmelech said.

Benmelech was one of the seven members on the committee who resigned after the president of the school negotiated a deal with pro-Palestinian protestors earlier this week, who had set up an encampment on campus. The former members of the committee say they weren’t consulted on the deal.

“Are we going to sign an agreement there is no impunity, no consequences after we have seen the worst burst of antisemitism in Northwestern that I can remember,” Benmelech said.

Northwestern reaches agreement, UChicago starts encampment protesting war in Gaza

The agreement reached earlier this week, among other things, includes more transparency on where the university is investing its money and protections for Muslim students. Protestors called it a big step forward.

In addition to the committee’s resignations, the agreement has now resulted in at least two lawsuits being filed against the school.

According to the Daily Northwestern, one of the lawsuits was filed by students at the university, citing a “cesspool of hate” present at the encampment, also calling it hostile to Jewish people.

The second was filed by the Equal Protection Project, saying the university’s deal violated federal civil rights laws.

Northwestern president Michael Schill is also facing calls to step down from the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups.

In a recorded message released earlier this week, Schill defended the agreement while condeming hate of all kinds of campus.

“I am proud of our community for achieving what has been a challenge across the country: a sustainable de-escalated path forward,” Schill said in the message.

Governor JB Pritzker has also weighed in.

“I support the Jewish organizations, I’m not about calling for people to step down. What I support is the fact that we need to protect not just Jewish students, but all students on campuses where there are protests,” Pritzker said.

Chicago’s Office of the Council of American Islamic Relations, CAIR, is planning a press conference Thursday on the encampments that have popped up on several campuses here in Chicago and across the country.

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