Editorial: IUPUI to make special rules for anti-Israel squatters after our investigation

In the past few weeks, anti-Israel squatters have camped on public land at several university campuses throughout the country, including IUPUI, where protesters have taken over the underside of the Business/SPEA Building. The Collegiate Commons recently conducted an investigation to determine whether they had to go through the same process as student organizations to conduct the display. The following day, administrators sent an email to students suggesting they formed a task force to set special policies to allow the encampment to continue. 

The Collegiate Commons investigates

While investigating, we spoke with the Indiana University Police Department, who said they were monitoring the protests 24/7 to ensure they do not present a safety risk. They were unable to confirm, however, whether they had a permit for the event. 

We also talked to or left voicemails with several staff members involved with The Cube, facility reservations, and special event registrations. Those we spoke to claimed to be unaware the protests were even going on, but one individual said they would speak to other university administrators to learn more about the situation. 

Protestors we spoke to at the encampment, on the other hand, said the university administration was tolerating them.

“They said it’s okay for us to be here, but they didn’t bring over cookies,” said a protester. Protesters also mentioned that staff from the Diversity Center actually brought the group cookies. 

According to protestors at the encampment, Layth Abdulbari, a student at IUPUI, was asked to put on the protest in solidarity with the Bloomington protests.

Abdulbari, alongside one of his parents, has previously harassed The Collegiate Commons staff during a tabling event.

Response by administration

A day after this investigation, a mass email sent to students by the recently-installed Chancellor Latha Ramchand confirmed that staff members from the Office of Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Eric Weldy, who has blacklisted this publication and called us “illegitimate,” has checked on the group daily. 

“A task force comprised of faculty from IFC, staff, and student organization leaders has been created and will meet next week to discuss recommendations for encampment policies for our campus that we can share with President Whitten,” Ramchand said.

Backlash from protesters 

A recently-created Instagram account called “Palestine Solidarity Committee at IUPUI,” which presumably was created by those organizing the encampment, criticized the decision. 

“[Administrators claimed] outside influencers from the broader community have introduced elements of escalation and unsafety [into our protest],” said the post, “[which is] a narrative… with racist roots…. [that] equates peaceful Palestinians with violent mobs.” 

Communist organizations behind protest

The Palestine Solidarity Committee, however, is not a registered student organization at IUPUI. Neither are the communist organizations Indiana Resiste or the Central Indiana Democratic Socialists of America, which according to Mirror Indy supported the organization of the protest. 

Indianapolis city-county councilor Jesse Brown, a self-described Marxist, has also reportedly pledged his support for the protestors. 

Anti-Israel encampment may have gotten around usual process for hosting events, ignoring existing policy

Student organizations typically have to follow a lengthy process to host events on-campus, especially when the events are longer and involve setting up things on university grounds. Organizers likely should have needed a special event permit for an outdoor event alongside a space reservation permit for Democracy Plaza, in addition to submitting an event request through the Spot. It is unclear if multi-day permits are usually permitted. 

A few weeks ago, Caleb Manring, President of Life Defenders at IUPUI, a pro-life student organization, held an event that involved placing miniature flags in Taylor Courtyard to represent aborted children. He confirmed that it was difficult to get the university to approve the event ostensibly because of the need to set flags up on university grounds. 

“I submitted the request through The Spot,” he said. “They denied it initially, saying the flags might damage irrigation. When I pushed back on that, they approved it after making me resubmit the event on condition we were liable for any damages. They also had me submit a work request in case there was damage.”

The anti-Israel encampment has several pieces of signage in the grass in addition to tents and signage underneath the Business/SPEA Building. They have also chalked under the Business/SPEA Building, despite the fact that the university bans chalking under covered areas and on walls. 

Manring’s event, which was called Cemetery of the Innocents, was also hijacked by pro-Palestine protesters for a short period of time. Reportedly they damaged Manring’s signage, pulled up flags, and wrote slurs on the sidewalk referring to Life Defenders, such as “only pro white life,” despite the fact that the display was unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

4 thoughts on “Editorial: IUPUI to make special rules for anti-Israel squatters after our investigation

  1. Hello,

    I just had some constructive criticism about the way your article is written. I don’t understand why the personal opinions/ interactions of people like Eric Weldy and Layth Abdulbari with collegiate commons have to do with this article. They don’t add any value to the topic at hand and honestly seems like you sharing a personal negative opinion that you have of them and that you want the readers to feel the same way. Also calling the pro-palestinian protestors as “anti-israel squatters” objectively shows that you have a very clear bias against them. Regardless of our personal opinions, these students are very clearly not squatters and do not even meet the definition of the word squatter. People have a constitutional right to protest.

    Again, just saying this as constructive criticism so i hope you take it that way too but stuff like this really makes your articles seem like bad faith journalism and show that you have a clear personal bias that is visible in your reporting.

    1. Thank you, Nathan. We’ve remarked this article as an editorial just to clarify, since it is written largely in the first person plural, covering what appears to be a response to our as-of-yet incomplete investigation. Our personal opinion about Dr. Weldy and Layth are not included in this article, we simply state something that has happened in the past that we have covered in other editorials, to add context. “Squatter” as a noun refers to anyone who occupies a piece of land without going through legal pathways to do so, and in fact seems to be the whole purpose of the protest (to imply that Israel is doing the same), so it appears to apply here. The fact that they are protesting has nothing to do with whether or not they went through the proper procedures to get approved to use university space for an event. The term anti-Israel is used because the stated policy goals of the protestors largely involve getting the university to oppose Israel in some way.

  2. I find it very interesting that these protestors are being called “anti-Israel” instead of “pro-Palestinian lives” that this protest is much more about. This is like calling the same types of university movements for anti-Apartheid in the 80s “anti-South Africa”, it is purposely and offensively disguising the truth of what these protests are about. History will remember these types of articles the same way it remembers the same reactionary articles against racism, the Vietnam War, and Apartheid South Africa protest movements of the past.

    1. Thanks for your input. The term anti-Israel was used because the demands of protestors primarily involve getting the university to oppose Israel, via BDS.

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