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In preemptive move, U. says encampment protestors will likely be arrested and barred from campus

A large building covered in green-vines.
Nassau Hall is a frequent site of political demonstrations.
Ryland Graham / The Daily Princetonian


Students participating in an “encampment, occupation, or other unlawful disruptive conduct who refuses to stop after a warning will be arrested and immediately barred from campus,” Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun wrote in an email to undergraduates on Wednesday morning. 

The move is the University’s harshest proposed action towards student protest since Oct. 7, and a rare step in which a university has preemptively warned that it will arrest student protestors for participating in an encampment before tents were erected. There is no encampment on University property, at time of publication.

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Participation in an encampment could also potentially prevent students from completing the semester as a result of being barred from campus, Calhoun wrote. Resulting University disciplinary proceedings may also result in “suspension, delay of a diploma, or expulsion.”

On Wednesday morning, students at Brown University and Harvard University set up encampments as part of an increasingly national movement of student sit-ins.

The message from Calhoun did not seem to deter pro-Palestinian organizers. In a message obtained by The Daily Princetonian, and sent to a group chat intended to plan an encampment, an organizer involved called Calhoun’s message “a partial bluff.” 

The message, sent around 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, stated that “this action is still on, and we will not be deterred.”

In a column published by The Daily Princetonian on April 25, University President Christoper Eisgruber ’83 argued that student protesters should consider “time, place, and manner” of protest. “These time, place, and manner regulations are viewpoint-neutral and content-neutral,” he wrote. “They apply to any protest or event, regardless of which side they take or what issues they raise.”

Eisgruber also referenced his history on free speech issues, including his decision not to condemn the use of the book “Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability” in a Near Eastern Studies class last fall.

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A leaked press release obtained by the ‘Prince’ outlined the proposed encampment’s demands, including that the University “call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and condemn Israel’s genocidal campaign against the Palestinian people.” 

The press release also reiterated existing demands for the University to divest from “companies that profit from or engage in the State of Israel’s ongoing military campaign, occupation, and apartheid policies,” to disassociate from Israeli academic institutions and businesses, and to cultivate relationships with Palestinian institutions. It also called for broader transparency on the University’s investments and an end to weapons research funded by the Department of Defense.

The encampment’s proposed demands also specifically singled out TigerTrek Israel and Birthright Israel trips sponsored by the Center for Jewish Life (CJL), as well as disassociation from the Tikvah Fund, a self-identified Zionist nonprofit that has funded events on campus in the past.

Princeton’s proposed response mirrors the suspension of all students involved in an encampment at Columbia University and Barnard College that drew national attention. Some students reported being barred and evicted from their campus housing. A ban from University property at Princeton would prevent students from accessing dormitories and dining halls, though students who live off-campus or are members of eating clubs would continue to have access to housing and dining plans.

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University spokesperson Jennifer Morrill did not specify how long potential bans from University property for participating in an encampment would last, saying it would “depend on the particular circumstances.” She also did not directly respond to questions about impacts on students’ financial aid or green card status and said it would depend “on the specific facts and circumstances of a student’s situation.”

The University has not always barred students from campus following an arrest. After Larry Giberson ’23 was arrested in March 2023 for coordinating a “heave-ho” effort at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, he was able to remain on campus and complete the spring semester of his senior year. Giberson received his diploma at graduation and told the ‘Prince’ at the time that the University had not contacted him about his criminal case.

Morrill told the ‘Prince’ that the University does not comment on the status of individual students.

Several conservative students involved in campus advocacy for free expression said they supported Calhoun’s email, and that it was consistent with the University’s existing free speech stance.

“Vice President Calhoun’s statement was commendable — she underscored the viewpoint-neutral nature of the University’s free speech rules while appropriately noting that the University can legitimately regulate the time, place, and manner of disruptive demonstrations without necessarily infringing on its viewpoint-neutral commitment to freedom of expression,” Matthew Wilson ’24 wrote in a statement to The Daily Princetonian. Wilson is a member of Princetonians for Free Speech. 

“Now, the administration must follow through on her statement and be prepared to discipline students or faculty who violate the University’s rules or New Jersey law as part of any so-called encampment,” he added.

In a statement to the ‘Prince,’ Myles McKnight ’23, the former president of the Princeton Open Campus Coalition (POCC) and a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute, said Calhoun’s email was “not a speech issue.”

“As far as I know, the administration has never punished or sanctioned any anti-Israel zealot on the basis of any view or slogan he or she has expressed, including at the many anti-Israel protests that have taken place this academic year,” he added. “The administration is right to object to encampments of the sort planned here, on the basis of the conduct, not speech, it entails.”

Max Weiss, a professor in the History Department and member of Faculty for Justice in Palestine (FJP), told the ‘Prince’ that “the intention represents an instance of prior restraint — in other words, a move to chill student activism and free expression, even as they continue to use the language of free speech.” Weiss specified that he was not speaking on behalf of FJP, which published an open letter in support of the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” at Columbia University.

Following the arrests of more than 100 students at Columbia and Barnard last week, students across the country have continued protesting and setting up tents on the main lawns of their campuses, many of them resulting in arrests and disciplinary proceedings. 

At Brown, multiple protestors had cases opened for student conduct violations on Wednesday afternoon. However, Brown President Christina Paxson said on Wednesday evening that law enforcement would not respond unless “actions that may create a violent, intimidating, hostile or otherwise unsafe environment” arose. 

Students at the Harvard encampment have not yet faced arrest or discipline, and President Alan Garber told The Harvard Crimson on Monday that while he would not rule out any option in terms of responding to campus protests, the bar for calling law enforcement would be “very, very high.”

Miriam Waldvogel is an associate News editor and the investigations editor for the ‘Prince.’ She is from Stockton, Calif. and often covers campus activism and University accountability.

Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.

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