Photo by Gaby Striano / North by Northwestern

Dozens of students rallied at the Rock on Wednesday, May 1, refusing to go to class in solidarity with nearly 300 Columbia University and City College of New York students who were arrested the night before.

American colleges have experienced a wave of encampments over the past two weeks, largely pioneered by Columbia and CCNY students. As they slept outside in tents, relying on donated food and goods, students called for their schools to disclose all investments and divest from any Israeli or Israel-associated companies. Even threats of suspension, expulsion and arrest didn’t quell the fervor, and over time, the camps grew exponentially.

Northwestern students laid out tarps on the cobblestone and hung a Palestinian flag from the Rock early Wednesday morning. Organized by the Northwestern University Divestment Coalition, students ate snacks, sang, danced and handed out fliers to passersby, encouraging them to strike.

As their numbers grew throughout the day, and chants sounded throughout campus, Student Affairs quickly caught wind. Senior Associate Dean of Students Christoper Zacharda told demonstrators they would receive a letter of warning about violating University policy and the University would take further action if they continued.

The letter, handed out shortly after, outlined the Student Code of Conduct addendum Northwestern President Schill instated on April 25. It claimed the strike directly violated the following policies: no demonstrations at the Rock before 3 p.m. and no amplified audio or chanting before 5 p.m. According to Dean of Students Mona Dugo, the new policies help prevent the disruption of classes.  

Students were quick to push back – what counts as a demonstration? Are religious services allowed? What does further action mean?

What we know for sure is that if a student is found violating the addendum policy, NUPD will ask to see their Wildcard and keep their ID number on record. If a student doesn’t have a Wildcard on their person or refuses to present it, they are “failing to comply” with the University. This, according to the letter handed out by Student Affairs, “will result in formal disciplinary action.”

While Zacharda stated he does not plan on involving the police (though it’s not only his call), he couldn’t answer what the disciplinary action would entail. Colleges and universities across the country have utilized a range of consequences, from academic probation to calling the police to remove and arrest students.

“We are not locked into a specific x equals y,” Zacharda said, confirming that any University discipline will be on a case-by-case basis.

As of now, the movement hasn’t been deterred. The NU Divestment Coalition announced soon after the strike that it filed a disclosure request with the University for nine companies, including Boeing and Google. Per the agreement reached with administration and student organizers, the University has 30 days to respond.