A group of University of Chicago professors said on Monday that they would risk arrest alongside students if police officers attempted to disperse an increasingly fortified pro-Palestinian encampment on a campus quad. Their announcement came after a week of mixed signals from administrators about when and if they might seek to evict demonstrators.

“As faculty members, we will protect the safety of our students if the administration attempts to violently remove them, even if that means arrest and detention,” said Elham Mireshghi, an assistant instructional professor in Chicago’s Divinity School.

The announcement by the faculty members, who stood on the steps of a campus building, came after a tense weekend in which protesters had braced for a police crackdown that did not materialize. After initially taking a permissive approach to the cluster of tents that went up last week, the university’s president, Paul Alivisatos, wrote a letter on Friday morning saying the encampment “cannot continue.”

“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 wrote on Friday. “Without an agreement to end the encampment, we have reached that point.”

Many assumed after his letter was published that police action was imminent, and a brief scuffle between protesters and counterprotesters on Friday led to a heightened law enforcement presence. But officers made no attempt to force protesters from the quad, and administrators and protesters negotiated again over the weekend.

The Chicago encampment, one of dozens across the country, has drawn heightened attention because the university is home to the Chicago statement, a set of free speech standards adopted in 2015 that has become a touchstone and guide for colleges across the country. Professors said on Monday that the university would violate those principles if it attempted to remove the encampment with force.


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