May 9, 2024

President Paul Alivisatos, Dean Michelle Rasmussen, Vice President Erin Lane, University of Chicago Administration,

We write on behalf of the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN), an Immigrant Rights and Latin America Human Rights organization committed to dismantling structures of oppression and violence, both domestically and abroad. Our mission drives us to challenge imperialistic, capitalist, and militaristic agendas, and to stand in solidarity with marginalized communities in Latin America as well as with the Immigrant community in the United States.

CRLN has a long history of collaboration with institutions like the University of Chicago in educating students and the public on the importance of respecting human rights. As neighbors in the Hyde Park neighborhood, we are deeply troubled by the University’s violent response to student activism and dissent. This disproportionate reaction not only undermines the principles of academic freedom and free expression but also contradicts the University’s professed commitment to social justice and human rights.

As an institution of higher learning, the University of Chicago bears a profound responsibility to safeguard the rights and freedoms of its diverse community, including students, staff, and faculty. Central to these rights is the freedom to express dissenting views without fear of reprisal or suppression.

We adamantly reject any attempts to vilify or stifle peaceful expressions of political dissent, particularly regarding the urgent issue of the Genocide against the people of Palestine. The University must recognize that criticism of oppressive state policies, such as those perpetuated by the Israeli government, is not only legitimate but also essential to fostering meaningful discourse and social progress.

Recent efforts to suppress student activism, both in Chicago and at other academic institutions across the country, only serve to exacerbate tensions and undermine the principles of academic freedom and democratic governance. We implore the University of Chicago to refrain from resorting to heavy-handed tactics such as deploying law enforcement to intimidate peaceful protests, which only escalate conflicts and endanger the safety of our community.

We unequivocally condemn the violent destruction of the peaceful student encampment in solidarity with the people of Palestine. Such actions not only infringe upon the fundamental rights of students to engage in peaceful protest but also perpetuate a culture of repression, silence and intimidation on campus. It is imperative that the University administration recognizes the importance of respecting the rights of students to express solidarity with marginalized communities without fear of reprisal or violence.

Moreover, we echo the demands put forth by students advocating for divestment from companies and institutions complicit in the Israeli occupation and apartheid regime. It is unconscionable for the University to continue profiting from investments in weapons manufacturers that fuel violence and human rights abuses against the Palestinian people. We call upon the University to immediately divest from such entities and to disclose its investment portfolio in the interest of transparency and accountability.

Furthermore, we stand in solidarity with the students who have bravely and peacefully occupied space in the form of an encampment to protest against injustice. Their steadfast commitment to solidarity with the people of Palestine must be respected, not met with intimidation or violence. We condemn any actions taken by the University to suppress dissent and join in the call for meaningful dialogue and engagement with the students.

In light of these concerns, we urge the University of Chicago administration to take immediate action by engaging in meaningful dialogue with students, disclosing its investment portfolio, and committing to divestment from complicit entities. It is imperative that the University uphold its principles of academic freedom, social justice, and human rights by respecting the rights of students to peacefully advocate for justice and equality. We call upon the administration to heed the demands of the students and take concrete steps towards creating a campus environment that fosters inclusivity, transparency, and genuine engagement with social justice issues.


The Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America

Jhonathan F. Gómez

Jhonathan F. Gómez has blogged 130 posts