Campus Discourse and International Conflict

To: Members of the University Community
From: Robert J. Zimmer, President and Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost
Subject: Campus Discourse and International Conflict
Date: June 1, 2021

We have received a number of inquiries and objections regarding a statement by the incoming Undergraduate Student Government on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is painful for many, and one that is intensely personal for many members of our community. The University of Chicago does not have an institutional position on international conflicts, in keeping with our longstanding practice against taking positions on social or political issues outside the University’s core mission. This position was developed in accord with the enduring principles articulated in the Kalven Report. As outlined in that report, the University’s position preserves the freedom of faculty and students to argue for or against any issue of social or political controversy and thus requires “a heavy presumption against” collective political action by the University itself.

One important corollary to freedom of expression on campus is that no individual faculty member speaks for the University as a whole. This is equally true with regard to student expression, and thus while Student Government representatives are elected by undergraduates, neither Student Government nor any other student group speaks for the University or for all students on any issue. As stated in its own Constitution, the mission of the Student Government (SG) is “to further the interests and promote the welfare of the students at the University of Chicago; to foster a University community; … and to represent the body more effectively before University authorities and the community at large.”

We are deeply disturbed by recent cases of anti-Semitism that have taken place in our country and across the world. These acts are deplorable and antithetical to our values, including our deep commitment to open and free inquiry, and our welcoming of people of all backgrounds.  These values compel our steadfast opposition to discrimination in its many potential forms, including rejection of anti-Semitism, anti-Palestinian bias, and other forms of bias that are also incompatible with our commitment to diversity and inclusion. The University does not tolerate violence, threats, intimidation or harassment directed at individuals or groups, as reflected in University Policy. We are committed to taking action to prevent such behavior and to address any cases that arise. Anyone who has experienced or witnessed a bias incident is encouraged to report it to the Bias Education & Support Team (BEST).

We continue to support the wellbeing of all members of our community, and to provide an environment for faculty and students to engage freely and openly on this and other issues. Our University is at its best when we treat each other with care and mutual respect, build on shared values, and come together to ensure people of all backgrounds and beliefs can thrive on campus. For those seeking additional support, UChicago Student Wellness offers undergraduate and graduate students accessible, high-quality, and culturally sensitive mental health services. The Staff and Faculty Assistance Program offers support for University personnel.