The president of the University of Chicago said on Friday that the pro-Palestinian encampment on his campus’s quad “cannot continue,” a position that was being closely watched in higher education because the university has long held itself up as a national model for free expression.

Administrators had initially taken a permissive approach to the camp and pointed toward what is known as the Chicago statement, a set of free speech standards adopted in 2015 that have become a touchstone and guide for colleges across the country. But President Paul Alivisatos said on Friday that those protections were not absolute, and that the encampment had run afoul of university policies.

“On Monday, I stated that we would only intervene if what might have been an exercise of free expression blocks the learning or expression of others or substantially disrupts the functioning or safety of the university,” Dr. Alivisatos said in a message to the campus. “Without an agreement to end the encampment, we have reached that point.”

In the hours after his announcement, hundreds of protesters remained at the encampment, where they chanted and held signs as counterprotesters gathered nearby. At one point, some pro-Palestinian demonstrators and counterprotesters briefly fought one another. By early afternoon, more police officers, both from the university and the city, were visible near the quad.

The scene had quieted down, at least temporarily, by early Friday evening. Several security guards were stationed around the quad, where protesters moved quietly around their encampment while others studied or walked nearby. There was no effort by law enforcement to forcibly disband the encampment.

Chicago’s mayor, Brandon Johnson, issued a statement saying he had been in touch with Dr. Alivisatos and had “made clear my commitment to free speech and safety on college campuses.”


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