Loyola Drops Charges Against Student Organizers, but Must Do More

Palestine Legal Applauds Dismissal of Charges against Loyola Students; Calls for Further Action to Protect Students' Rights

UPDATE: On Tuesday, Dec. 8, LUC announced a temporary moratorium on the Demonstration Policy, pending review of the policy by the campus community.

When students of color at Loyola University Chicago (LUC) organized a November 12 demonstration in solidarity with students at the University of Missouri, over 700 students, faculty, and staff attended. Demonstration organizers did not fully comply with LUC’s draconian demonstration policy – full compliance would have precluded participation in a national day of solidarity with Mizzou. 

But despite promises from senior administration officials that no student would be disciplined, LUC charged three organizers – all black students – with violating the demonstration policy. The students faced suspension. All three students are also members of Students for Justice in Palestine at LUC (SJP), and Palestine Legal staff attorney Rahul Saksena acted as their adviser during their Friday disciplinary hearing.

On Saturday, after intense pressure from students and media, LUC’s interim president dismissed all charges and expressed a willingness to revise the demonstration policy.

Palestine Legal applauds this decision. But it exposes concerns that LUC applies its rules selectively and unfairly. Moving forward, to protect student speech and to protect students from unearned punishment, Palestine Legal joins SJP in calling on LUC to take the following steps:

  • LUC should issue a public apology to SJP for the University’s unfair and selective enforcement of the demonstration policy. We are concerned that LUC’s burdensome demonstration policy has been – and will continue to be – applied in a discriminatory way. Last year, SJP was unfairly placed on probation, and its members forced to attend a training session on “dialogue” for an impromptu demonstration that was not organized by SJP.
  • LUC should protect student speech and dissent by ending its draconian demonstration registration requirements. The burdensome policies – including a requirement to register demonstrations three days in advance – can only be interpreted to prohibit spontaneous demonstrations triggered by current events, demonstrations which we believe disproportionately impact students of color and other historically marginalized communities. Such a prohibition has no place in an academic setting, where unfettered speech, debate, and dissent must be protected and encouraged.
  • LUC should strengthen students’ due process rights in the disciplinary process. Student discipline is a serious matter, particularly when suspension is at stake. For example, students should have the right to know the specific charges brought against them well in advance of disciplinary hearings; blanket charges should not be brought against groups of students; and students should have the right to review evidence files well in advance of disciplinary hearings.