Palestine Legal demands repeal of Loyola demonstration policy
In a letter addressed to the President and administration of Loyola University-Chicago (LUC), Palestine Legal and the National Lawyers Guild of Chicago (NLG-Chicago) called for the repeal of the school’s demonstration policy, which they say unfairly targets Students for Justice in Palestine and students of color.
The letter, released on the Palestine Legal website on Wednesday, also demanded that the administration apologize to the SJP chapter at Loyola. These demands are the same put forward by SJP members themselves in a December 7 statement.
“As LUC’s recent track record demonstrates, student groups of color in particular have been unfairly regulated and disciplined by the university for their public actions confronting social injustices, including injustices at LUC itself,” Palestine Legal said in the letter.
Loyola University’s Demonstration and Fixed Exhibit Policy requires student groups to request permission for a demonstration three days in advance, receive written approval from administration, and meet with university representatives prior to the event. Students are required to inform the representatives of all details of the planned demonstration during this meeting.
Another section of the policy lists prohibited behavior at demonstrations, such as that they must not “disrupt the operations of the university.” Additionally, the policy states that “Individuals or groups who organized the demonstration are accountable for the conduct of their guests and may be subject to disciplinary action accordingly.”
The sections of the policy which regulate demonstrations were suspended on December 8 by Interim President John Pelissero. However, Palestine Legal and NLG-Chicago do not consider this step to be enough and call for a complete repeal of the policy in their letter to the administration.
The policy came under fire in November after students of color at Loyola organized an enormously successful rally in support of students at the University of Missouri. While at first, senior Loyola administration promised that no students would face disciplinary action, the university then charged three black students, all SJP members, with violating the policy and threatened them with suspension.
It was only after intense pressure from students, media, and civil rights organizations to drop the charges, that they were dismissed. Interim President John Pelissero announced the moratorium on the policy shortly thereafter. Ryan Sorell, a member of SJP and Black Voices Loyola was quoted on the issue in a December 7 statement, “As long as the University has the right to pick and choose what type of Justice they deem appropriate, the only individuals who can fully express their Freedom of Speech will be those who have nothing to say, or are afraid to say it.”
As the Palestine Legal letter addresses, this is not the first time students of color and SJP members have been unfairly targeted by the demonstration policy. Last year, LUC SJP was suspended for months and forced to participate in “dialogue” training for not registering an impromptu demonstration not officially organized by SJP. Although the action was in response to pro-Israel tabling which was also unregistered, only SJP was sanctioned.
“Chicago NLG and Palestine Legal will continue to monitor the situation at Loyola University with great interest and concern,” the letter concludes.