Earlier this week, Northwestern University Professor Beth Redbird invited a public relations officer from ICE to talk to her Social Inequality: Race, Class, and Power class as part of a discussion on immigration reforms.
Unsurprisingly, this turned into complete chaos. This is not too surprising, because Northwestern’s president, Morton Schapiro, has given no indication that shutting down events has any consequences on his campus.
One of the protesters, Danielle Douge, defended the leftist coalition’s disruption, saying that she had a “right” to be in the building and a “right” to say whatever she wanted. In other words, Douge argued that she had a right to censor whomever she wanted if she felt “microaggressed” by a professor’s attempt to encourage two sides of a contentious issue.
Northwestern’s Associated Student Government has now issued a statement, standing in full solidarity with the protesters who shut the class down. Their statement attempts to support academic freedom, but ends up coming down entirely on the side of the protesters, failing to acknowledge any way that having an ICE officer on campus could possibly contribute to students learning about the topic of immigration reform.
Lauren Thomas, one of the co-founders of Students for Free Expression, was one student in attendance, and she will be meeting with a Northwestern Dean, and she said the following about both the event and her involvement with Students for Free Expression:
I’m extremely disturbed by how students are encouraging and even facilitating violations of academic freedom like this one. Promoting censorship will never destroy the powerful; ultimately it will only backfire on the most vulnerable in our society. That’s why I’m encouraged by our movement and hope to see many more students join.
Meanwhile, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro (who runs the risk of being “SH[A]T…at” at his upcoming visit to Northwestern, said “I’ll be there next week. Looking forward to their tolerance!”
The entire statement from Student Government is below:
On May 16, Northwestern students protested Professor Beth Redbird’s decision to bring an ICE public relations officer to campus as part of her course Social Inequality: Race, Class, and Power. The protesters, sponsored by IJP, NU QTIPOC, MEChA de Northwestern, APAC, and Rainbow Alliance, and Black Lives Matter, reminded us all that the presence of ICE personnel on campus is a serious concern for numerous communities, and represents a threat to hundreds of Northwestern students.
While ASG respects Professor Redbird’s desire to educate students about discriminatory and hostile power structures, the physical presence of ICE was not necessary for this lesson and highlights the struggles of undocumented students at Northwestern. Our priority as a campus must be to support and defend the rights of students and respect Evanston’s status as a sanctuary city. We must recognize that ICE’s policies of detainment have generated human rights violations and heinous acts of violence – and not reduce this violence to academic debate. As long as ICE personnel continue to target undocumented students, their presence on campus will always be inconsistent with Northwestern’s values of inclusivity and opportunity.
We stand with undocumented and Latinx students, and we support the protesters’ demands and their exercise of free speech. Northwestern must develop a resource center for undocumented students, make our campus a sanctuary for undocumented students and workers, eliminate E-verify and other discriminatory employment practices, and divest from all companies that aid in the privatization of state violence against immigrant communities. As representatives of Northwestern’s student body, ASG steadfastly opposes ICE’s racially discriminatory immigration policies.
ASG supports the expression of diverse viewpoints, but we must recognize that for millions of Americans, the presence of ICE does not represent a simple opinion. It represents an institution that currently inflicts violence against them and their families. The right to learn and live without fear of persecution is inalienable to every Northwestern student. As a community that embraces undocumented students, we must resist organizations like ICE that perpetuate discrimination and commit acts of violence.