Yesterday's Protests

Dear Emory Community,

I’m writing to follow up on yesterday’s messages regarding the protests at Emory.

The encampment that was set up yesterday in the early morning on the Quad in front of the Commencement stage was quickly cleared by law enforcement and a number of arrests were made. Following these events, students gathered outside Convocation Hall to organize a protest. Throughout the afternoon, Emory students and community members assembled peacefully on the Quad. The afternoon events were monitored by open expression observers and Emory Police Department (EPD) officers were on site to provide support as needed.

Early yesterday evening, a large group of protestors left the Quad and gathered outside the Candler School of Theology. Some protestors pinned police officers against the building’s glass doors, threw objects at them, and attempted to gain access to the building. These actions against officers prompted an increased law enforcement presence on campus. Protestors then returned to the Quad and eventually dispersed. No further arrests were made.

I am saddened by what took place at Emory yesterday. To watch these highly organized, outside protestors arrive on campus in vans, construct an encampment, and overtake the Quad just days after it was vandalized with hateful and threatening messages was deeply disturbing. I also know that some of the videos are shocking, and I am horrified that members of our community had to experience and witness such interactions. The fact that members of our community were arrested upsets me even more and is something that I take very seriously. To the best of our ability, we are working with law enforcement agencies to assist detained community members and expedite their release.

Yesterday’s events echo similar incidents that have taken place at universities nationwide. I understand that the ongoing effects of the war in Israel and Gaza, including the humanitarian crisis engulfing the Palestinian people and the hostage crisis involving Israeli civilians, continue to stir painful emotions. At the same time, the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center engenders fierce debate across our city.

As Emory community members continue to express themselves and protest, we are committed to working with students and faculty, open expression observers, and the EPD to facilitate their peaceful expression. However, we will not tolerate vandalism, violence, or any attempt to disrupt our campus through the construction of encampments. These actions are counter to our values, and they disrupt the core purpose of the university and its educational and research missions.  

Today, once again, Emory staff from Facilities Management have returned to the Quad to repair the damage caused by a group of individuals who did not have this community’s best interests in mind. Dedicated staff members will then resume the work of preparing our facilities as we welcome thousands of families, parents, and guests to campus for our Commencement ceremonies.

As we approach finals, the end of the academic year, and Commencement, I recognize that there is disagreement on difficult issues and there will continue to be debate. But I also know we can express our views and beliefs without diminishing the experiences and accomplishments of others. That will be our challenge in the days ahead and I know it is one that this community will rise to meet.


Gregory L. Fenves