Giri Viswanathan, Senior Photographer

Dozens of Yale faculty members are frustrated by University President Peter Salovey’s response to the wave of recent pro-Palestine protests and student arrests. Some believe that the University acted too punitively, and others believe that the administration’s response has not been harsh enough.

On Monday, following the arrest of 48 pro-Palestine protesters, including 44 Yale students, two groups of Yale faculty members sent letters to President Salovey and other Yale administrators denouncing the University’s response to the weekend’s protests and encampment on Beinecke Plaza. 

One statement — written by Yale professors affiliated with the organization Faculty for Justice in Palestine — condemned Monday’s arrests and threats of disciplinary action against students, while the other letter — signed by 60 affiliates of seven Yale schools — criticized the administration’s failure to take action to protect Jewish students and faculty members. The former statement does not have specific signatories.

Faculty for Justice in Palestine ‘condemn’ Monday arrests, threats of disciplinary action

Addressed to Salovey, Yale College Dean Pericles Lewis and Vice President for University Life Kimberly Goff-Crews, the statement written by Yale affiliates of Faculty for Justice in Palestine voiced concern over the University’s decision to arrest pro-Palestine protesters in an encampment at Beinecke Plaza on April 22. 

The statement criticized Salovey’s description of pro-Palestine protesters unaffiliated with Yale as “outside agitators,” arguing that the rhetoric plays into “racial tropes.” Its writers also expressed support for pro-Palestine activists on campus and urged the university to halt a “punitive approach” toward student organizing.

“As educators, we are in awe of the commitment, discipline, and peacefulness our students have shown despite being doxxed, intimidated, falsely accused, and now arrested,” the message states. “They were, in fact, admirably heeding the president’s call to ‘act with compassion and civility, especially when the values we stand for are being severely tested.’ This warrants respect and tolerance rather than discipline and threats.”

So far, several faculty members have lent support for pro-Palestine protesters, said Roderick Ferguson, the chair of the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, who is an FJP affiliate. Faculty have provided food for protesters, conducted teach-ins, picked students up after arrests and attended rallies on Beinecke Plaza during the encampment, he told the News.

The FJP statement also notes that affiliated faculty members are prepared to stage walkouts and boycott Yale’s graduation ceremonies in solidarity with students if the university administration does not meet student protesters’ demands for Yale’s divestment from military weapons manufacturers.

“I’m proud to see faculty members within and beyond FJP support students who are trying to actualize the professed democratic ideals of this university and this nation,” Ferguson wrote to the News. “I predict that faculty support will only grow.”

Kishwar Rizvi, an FJP affiliate and the Robert Lehman Professor in the History of Art, Islamic Art and Architecture, counts herself among the faculty members supportive of pro-Palestine student protesters. 

As a witness to the protests, Rizvi expressed alarm at the “disproportionate aggression” she believes the administration has used to curb student organizing. 

“To criminalize the students for simply occupying spaces that they are also told they belong to, to try and silence students when we teach them to think critically, to impose ad hoc rules that seem to be invented simply to censor free speech, is an extremely dangerous thing,” Rizvi wrote in an email to the News. 

For Erica Edwards, professor of English and African American studies, the University’s punitive response — threats of disciplinary action followed by police arrests — to Yale’s pro-Palestine protesters created an excessive safety risk for students involved. Edwards expressed disappointment that the University responded with “surveillance and punishment rather than transparency and substantive engagement.”

‘Enough is Enough:’ Faculty letter on increasing protection of Jewish students

In contrast, a separate group of Yale faculty urged the University to bolster the protection of Jewish students and faculty members and criticized the administration for failing to enforce school disciplinary policies. They also accused the administration of not acknowledging an alleged physical attack on a Jewish student. The letter was dated April 22 — the day protesters were arrested— which is when Howard Forman, a signatory and professor of radiology and economics, first saw it. He told the News that the letter had been drafted and circulated before Salovey’s April 22 email to the Yale community addressing student arrests, which overcounted the number of protesters detained.

The signatories stated that the University’s lack of consequences for the protesters who violated Yale’s Free Expression Policy Guidelines “undermines the credibility and commitment of the University to address antisemitism.” The letter noted that if the safety of Jewish students cannot be guaranteed, demonstrations should be “halted.”

“The safety of Jews can no longer be ignored in the name of ‘free speech,’” the letter states, citing instances of harassment and violence towards Jewish students on campuses across the nation.

The letter demands that Salovey release a “strong” statement within 48 hours of the letter’s release, detailing how the administration intends to ensure Jewish safety on campus. 

As of 9 a.m. on Friday, Salovey has yet to release such a statement. 

At least 45 of the signatories were associated with the School of Medicine, though faculty from Yale Law School, the School of Management, the School of Engineering & Applied Science, the School of Public Health, the School of Music and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences also signed the letter. 

Evan Morris, a professor of radiology and biomedical engineering at the School of Medicine, and Irena Tocino, a professor emeritus of radiology and biomedical imaging, both wrote to the News that they helped draft the letter. 

They cited multiple reasons for writing the letter, arguing that Salovey “lost control of the campus” and that his lack of action could increase violence. They also argued that the administration “constrained the police inappropriately on Saturday night” and “defended all manner of hate speech against Jews.”

The University spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

Forman explained to the News that he signed the letter after receiving it in an email.

Forman told the News that while the tone of the letter was “harsher than [he] personally would use,” he deliberated for about an hour and ultimately signed it because he agreed with its content. 

“The letter itself still stands up for basic principles that I think people feel are being ignored right now,” Forman said. “I came to sign it mostly to show solidarity with people who I think are right now feeling very much hurt.” 

The letter also listed additional demands, stating that only Yale faculty and students should be able to participate in on-campus protests and that “anti-Israel rhetoric and political positions” should be removed from Yale websites. 

Moreover, they state that demonstrators should not be allowed to wear masks or other face coverings to “avoid accountability for their actions.”

Forman said to the News that while it is “terrible” that students are getting doxxed and attacked for participating in protests, he believes that they should also publicly defend their beliefs. 

“I’m willing to put my name behind this at personal harm, at personal risk of offending people,” Forman said. “You have to be willing to stand up for what you believe in.” 

Matthew Spiegel, a professor of finance at the School of Management, also received the letter via email and decided to sign on. In an email to the News, he wrote that he signed onto the letter to urge the University to enforce the rules they had previously established. 

“If you have rules, you need to enforce [them],” Spiegel wrote. “If you are unwilling to do so, no matter the situation or who the violator is, then you need to repeal the rule. … Rules you enforce with ‘discretion’ are invitations to discrimination.”

Pro-Palestine protesters first set up an overnight encampment on Beinecke Plaza on Friday, April 26.

Correction, April 26: A previous version of this article misstated the time that the faculty letter calling on the university to ensure the safety of Jewish community members was drafted and circulated; it was actually circulated prior to President Salovey’s 2nd email to the community on April 22.

Lily Belle Poling covers climate and the environment. Originally from Montgomery, Alabama, she is a first year in Branford College majoring in Global Affairs and English.
Kaitlyn Pohly is a sophomore in Silliman College. She serves as the Student Life Reporter for the University Desk and previously reported on Student Policy and Affairs. Originally from New York City, Kaitlyn is a History major. Outside of the classroom and the newsroom, Kaitlyn dances with YaleDancers.
Giri Viswanathan was a Science and Technology Editor for the News. Previously, he served as a Photography Editor while covering the School of Public Health for the SciTech Desk. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Giri is a junior in Timothy Dwight College majoring in Global Affairs with a certificate in Global Health Studies.
Adam McPhail is a SciTech editor at the Yale Daily News. Previously, he wrote for the City, University and Arts desks. Originally from Rochester, MN, he is a junior in Trumbull College majoring in the Humanities.