The President of Northwestern University is mad as hell at woke students, and he’s not going to take it anymore

October 20, 2020 • 9:30 am

I got hold of this email sent yesterday by the president of Northwestern University, a prestigious school just north of Chicago.  In the past few weeks, woke students have been disrupting the town and the campus, demanding the abolition of the University police force, and this is his response.

It starts off, like many of these things, paying tribute to the Black Lives Matter protests and making political statements that would never fly at the University of Chicago. Well, given what he says in toto, that’s fine.

But then, after this ritual obeisance to the movement, President Morton Shapiro, an economist, lets loose. While supporting peaceful protests, he then lights into protestors for disrupting the community and vandalizing property, “violating laws and University standards.”  He’s not talking about civil disobedience, either: the lawbreakers do not want or expect to be arrested for calling attention to moral injustice. (He does note, as a sop, that “some of the instigators appear not to be Northwestern students at all, but outside activists”.) But surely many of them are from his own school.

And, like the University of Chicago, where misguided students held a weeklong protest in front of our Provost’s house (without getting the University to budge on their “demands”), Northwestern students did the same thing in front of Morton’s house.  They even painted slurs in front of his house that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic, just as the protestors at the University of Chicago painted “Fuck your mother” in front of our Provost’s house in Chinese (she’s of Chinese ancestry), adding a “parking space for racists” painted in front of her house. In what world do protestors think that such tactics will be effective? Protests in front of private residences, by the way, are illegal in Illinois, and it’s a testimony to the patience of our Provost and of Shapiro that they didn’t have the cops clear the protestors away from their houses.

And, like Provost Lee at the University of Chicago, Morton absolutely refuses to consider disbanding the Northwestern University police department.

Note the very strong language that Morton uses—as well he should.

This is a model for letter that should be written to authoritarian, spoiled, entitled protesting students by a College President. He leaves the door open for discussion, but, as Howard Beale said in the movie Network, adds a distinct note of “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.

I’ve put my favorite bits in bold.

Dear members of the Northwestern community,

Over the weekend I received many messages of concern about protests organized by some of our students, among others, who are demanding the abolition of the Northwestern University Police Department.

We, as a University, recognize the many injustices faced by Black and other marginalized groups. We also acknowledge that the policing and criminal justice system in our country is too often stacked against those same communities. Your concerns are valid and necessary, and we encourage and, in fact, rely on your active engagement with us to make your school and our society equitable and safe for everyone. That said, while the University has every intention to continue improving NUPD, we have absolutely no intention to abolish it. 

Northwestern firmly supports vigorous debate and the free expression of ideas — abiding principles that are fundamental for our University. We encourage members of our community to find meaningful ways to get involved and advocate for causes they believe in — and to do so safely and peacefully. The University protects the right to protest, but we do not condone breaking the law.

What started as peaceful protests have recently grown into expressions that have been anything but peaceful or productive. Crowds blocked the streets of downtown Evanston and nearby residential areas, disrupting businesses and local families, defacing property and violating laws and University standards. Some of the instigators appear not to be Northwestern students at all, but rather outside activists.

While the protesters claim that they are just trying to get our attention, that is simply not true. Several administrators — including our Provost, Deans, Interim Chief Diversity Officer and Vice Presidents for Research and Student Affairs — have held numerous discussions with concerned students, faculty and staff, and I am participating in a community dialogue tomorrow evening that was scheduled weeks ago.

Events in recent days seem to indicate an intent by organizers to escalate matters, and to provoke NUPD into retaliation. 

I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the overstepping of the protesters. They have no right to menace members of our academic and surrounding communities. When students and other participants are vandalizing property, lighting fires and spray-painting phrases such as “kill the pigs,” we have moved well past legitimate forms of free speech.  

I want to offer a personal illustration of the pain these protesters have caused. Many gathered outside my home this weekend into the early hours of the morning, chanting “f— you Morty” and “piggy Morty.” The latter comes dangerously close to a longstanding trope against observant Jews like myself. Whether it was done out of ignorance or out of anti-Semitism, it is completely unacceptable, and I ask them to consider how their parents and siblings would feel if a group came to their homes in the middle of the night to wake up their families with such vile and personal attacks. To those protesters and their supporters who justify such actions, I ask you to take a long hard look in the mirror and realize that this isn’t actually “speaking truth to power” or furthering your cause. It is an abomination and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

An essential aspect of education is the discernment of actions and consequences. If you, as a member of the Northwestern community, violate rules and laws, I am making it abundantly clear that you will be held accountable. 

If you haven’t yet gotten my point, I am disgusted by those who chose to disgrace this University in such a fashion. I especially condemn the effect of their actions on our friends, neighbors and other members of our community who are trying to sustain viable businesses, raise families, study and do research, while facing a global pandemic and the injustices of the world without losing their sense of humanity.

I remain as open and willing as ever to speak to any member of the Northwestern family who has concerns about the safety of this campus and everyone who is part of it. But I refuse to engage with individuals who continue to use the tactics of intimidation and violence.

Morton Schapiro
President and Professor

With the two most prestigious universities in Chicago making similar statements, I’m hoping that they will serve as examples for other, more pusillanimous administrators, like those at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Williams.

Maybe this ludicrous behavior by students is due to the pandemic: peevish people with too much time on their hands. Protest is perfectly fine, so long as it’s peaceful, but the Northwestern protestors crossed the line. And if you practice civil disobedience, breaking the law to make a point, you must break the law peacefully, without arson, looting, violence, and defacing property. And never, never, use ethnic slurs against administrators—that makes you the racists.

You go, Morty!

64 thoughts on “The President of Northwestern University is mad as hell at woke students, and he’s not going to take it anymore

    1. Good Lord! They’re worse than I thought. Despite the fact that many protestors are white, this is what the paper reports:

      They added that it’s an insult for Schapiro to draw on “racist, coded language” like “abomination” and vile.” Questioning whether Black protestors had “lost their sense of humanity” is inherently anti-Black, the group wrote.

      Racist coded language? I don’t think so. These protestors will glom onto anything to get offended and cry “racism”.

      1. First they came for Republicans… then they came for Originalists…then they came for left-leaning liberals… now “the faculty seek to hold the University of Chicago accountable for its “long history of willingly enabling and directly contributing to structural racism.”

        No one could have predicted this./s

      1. There is an interesting history behind all this. It wasn’t common to have campus police until the late 20th century to see campus police here. Yale, I think, was the first university in the US to get campus police, sometime in the early 20th century, but I could be wrong about that.

        What happened was the 1960s. Until then schools mostly relied on city or state police. The protests of the 1960s however, saw so much violence from the police and protesters that many schools, trying to gain control of the situation, began building their own forces. It is a maxim of any government that once a system that extends its authority to address a situation is in place, it is extremely difficult to remove once the threat had been removed. So what began as an effort to reduce violence from city/state police forces became a permanent fixture because it proved to be beneficial in other ways beyond reducing the head-busting of cops.

        In any event, these campus police forces have proven valuable here in the US because our country is a violent, uncivilized place.

        1. I wondered about this university cop thing.

          What power do they have and where is that power sourced?

          Where I am we have state police and federal police.
          We rarely if ever interact with federal police.

          All normal policing is done by the state police. No one else has or could have such police power.

        1. I came to the US to study at Georgetown Univ. in 1993 (and stayed, I’m still here!) from Melbourne Uni in Australia.

          I was actually quite surprised at the existence of campus police at Georgetown.

          As I was surprised by “Parks Police” and any number of various “specialty” cops in DC and elsewhere.
          “I guess Americans just love their law enforcement” I thought.
          25 years and becoming a lawyer later… I STILL don’t get it!

          D.A., J.D.,NYC

          1. I think the reason the US has lots of cops is because the population is still settling the wild west. We have not become fully civilized yet, but we need our head knockers to remind folks how they are supposed to behave. The gun folks who attacked the Michigan Statehouse and tried to assassinate Governor Whitmer are a clear indication that we have not yet made the transition from water to land, so to speak.

      1. We have “Special constables”. The same kind of cops on trains. They have police powers on the campus but the actual city cops come in for serious things.

    1. You must be new here.

      It comes up frequently whenever Jerry writes a story like this. Some foreigner (and as a Britisher, it has been me in the past) expresses surprise that US universities often have their own police departments.

  1. I just listened to Coleman Hughes’ reading his open letter to Ibrahim X. Kendi and then Hughes’ review of Kendi’s latest book. It seems to me the protester’s views – including the update given here – are derived straight from Kendi’s book : there is either racism or anti-racism – full stop.

  2. “… authoritarian, spoiled, entitled protesting students …” is getting close to “an effette corps of impudent snobs”

  3. “…authoritarian, spoiled, entitled protesting students…” is getting close to “an effete corps of impudent snobs”

    1. Ok, I’ll see your “impudent snobs” and raise you this one (per Wikiquote).

      “Your highness is already familiar with the unrelenting Zionist efforts to destroy me…Zionists in the United States knew that I would never agree to the continuance of the unfair and disastrous favoring of Israel and they had to get me out of office there so that I would not succeed Nixon.”

      Jerry and Spiro Agnew are so far apart on the anti-Semitism axis that your “getting close to” is not measurable on any meaningful scale.

  4. They even painted slurs in front of his house that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic

    I assume you are referring to the “piggy” insult. If all this was happening in the UK, I would accept the protestors’ claim that it was because he was defending the police without question. “Pigs” is common pejorative slang for the police here.

    1. That is, in fact, what they are claiming (read the link I posted above). Although I totally support Shapiro’s strong condemnations, he’s wrong about this. They used “pig” as a word for “cop”.

      I have little doubt, however, of their antisemitism even if this was not an example. Antisemitism is one of the many kinds of hatreds central to being woke.

        1. I have none at all, but you cannot be unaware of the rampant antisemitism among the woke. It is part of who they are. It is the same reason that -without any evidence- I think these fine young people would insist that I, being a white male, need to apologize for….something.

          I think you just trying to yank my chain.

          1. I’m not trying to yank your chain. I am aware that a lot of the woke are anti-Israel in the sense of the modern nation state of Israel. I don’t think that is necessarily the same as being anti-semitic.

      1. But, but, Shapiro as a Jew, is fully entitled by his lived experiences to take offence at the word ‘piggy’ and treat it as an anti-semitic slur even if it was not intended to be so. Isn’t that how Social Justice works?

  5. The protesters’ tropism for leaving graffiti everywhere, like small children running amok with crayons, reveals their true philosophy.
    It is neither Anarchism nor Communism, let alone Critical Whatever Theory, but simple Exhibitionism. For treatment, they need to be relieved of the stress of enrollment at Northwestern to start with, after which other therapeutic measures may be in order.

  6. “In what world do protestors think that such tactics will be effective?” This reminds me of the video of protesters blocking cars and threatening the drivers, who must say “Black Lives matter” out loud if they want to pass. How can they not see that they just took people who might sympathize with their goals and turned them (and all who see the video) into lifelong enemies of their movement? They seem to have the political savvy of 2-year-olds.

          1. I vote Democrat almost all the time (independent occasionally, never Repub in national elections), but I sometimes think the Dems are incredibly stupid about messaging as well, especially when the wokes get the mic. (E.g, “Most all of you people outside of NY and Calif. are racist, sexist xenophobes who need to be stripped of your unearned privileges; now vote for me.”)

            1. Please show me where that is the message of a Democratic Party official or representative.

              Please don’t confuse Democrats with woke idiots. Sure, there are wokesters who will vote for Democratic candidates. But woke-ism, applied post-modernism, is nearly as hostile to the Democratic Party as they are to Republicans.

    1. I actually don’t think they care. I suspect many are in it for the rebellion and acting like assholes allure.

  7. Good example of how to stand up against violence and intimidation while supporting those who are peacefully protesting.

  8. Universities have been far too slow to suspend of kick out students who seriously break the law in protests. I think that the majority would learn to keep the protests nonviolent if the worst offenders had their relationship with the university terminated.

  9. Perhaps there are multiple objectives. I suspect the root organizers and strategists are perfectly aware that the protest will have adverse effects for both the protesters and the community.
    The people engaged in the acts themselves may well think that there are noble objectives to their actions, but they are targeted primarily because they tend to be the types of people easily influenced to do impulsive things destructive to their own interests.

    One of my kids transferred to a different school because of the continual disruptions and targeted abuse coming from radical students.
    I never really blamed the kids “protesting”, I blame the administration for allowing agitators to use the university as a platform to recruit and indoctrinate students to become revolutionaries.
    The kids toppling the statues and smashing the windows have been done a terrible disservice. They have already done what it takes to be admitted to university, and with a bit of guidance and encouragement, they could go very far. Any of those kids could, on their first day, tell their counselor “I want to be a heart surgeon”, or “I want to design killer robots”, and they will be provided a pathway to doing just that. All they need to do is show up and do the required work.
    Instead, kids who may well be the first in their family to have such an opportunity are funneled into grievance studies programs, where they are taught false history, given a permanent sense of outrage and entitlement, and taught no useful skills.
    Not only can they not design and build a killbot, but they are taught attitude that make them unsuitable for even unskilled jobs, because they will only be a force for disruption.
    I guess some of the students are being recruited from the ranks of students in the mainstream programs as well, with the same result.
    Of course the kids who just want to study, but who have to endure having obscenities screamed at them in the library are being victimized as well.
    All they need to do is stop tolerating it. Toddlers are happier once they understand the accepted boundaries of behavior, and older people are no different.

    1. Your analysis seems correct (individuals misdirected away from useful or fulfilling study, and ending up with a Grievance Studies degree, no skills, and a heart full of entitlement and rage). A sad & discouraging implication is that the Joker was right, and some people it seems really do just want to see the world burn.

    2. reply to Max Blanche, who said

      “One of my kids transferred to a different school because of the continual disruptions and targeted abuse coming from radical students”.

      I have sympathy for your children. But anonymous/fictional tales of oppression are a mainstay of the loony right; us liberals can do better. Please ‘out’ the malefactors, and tell us which school this is.

  10. I have never understood why private universities and colleges such as Northwestern and University of Chicago are allowed to exercise police powers anyway. The presidents of those universities were not elected in any democratic manner and are completely unaccountable through any democratic means. Let them rely on local police. Perhaps you trust the president of Northwestern to not abuse police powers but what about the President of Liberty University? There is no practical purpose and every reason to fear giving broad police powers to private unaccountable institutions.

    1. Private companies employ private security all the time. The difference here comes when a private university’s security is empowered by agreements with municipalities to be able to make arrests and otherwise enforce laws. Marquette University, here in Milwaukee, has such an agreement. The city benefits by not having to provide cops to patrol Marquette’s campus and Marquette benefits by having more policing on campus than they otherwise would.

      It is a little different with public universities. They, too, have their own police forces but these are actually just state police who are organized to serve their respective campuses. It makes for interesting jurisdictional issues, especially when communities around campus would like more patrols from campus police while the latter would prefer to leave off-campus issues to the city cops.

    2. They are NOT unaccountable. Here in California, for example, they are regulated like Fish and Game and California Highway Patrol officers, who have authority and jurisdiction as governed by the California Penal Code.

      1. I think we are using the terms differently. These police may be licensed but they report to the president of the private institution and are accountable to him or her. Meanwhile fish and game and highway patrol officers are ultimately accountable to (report to) publicly elected officials.

        In many respects this is worse than private prisons. At least in private prisons they are serving a public purpose and are accountable through a contract with a public agency or authority. In the case of private police forces their purpose and accountability is entirely for private purposes.

        1. I do see where your concern is, especially with private security forces. To the extent that they are effective, however, there is a large body of legislation (here in CA at least) which regulates everything from their jurisdiction to their authority. One would hope the laws would protect us from abuse, but, of course, that is an ideal not a fact.

          One thing that should be noted is that one of the things which distinguishes campus police forces from public ones is their emphasis on sensitivity and community policing training. There are no (AFAIK) campus SWAT teams.

  11. “In what world do protestors think that such tactics will be effective?”

    My granddaughter throws tantrums for no good reason… but she is only 4 (and a half!) years old.

  12. One poster above expresses sorrow for kids at universities who “are funneled into grievance studies programs, where they are taught false history, given a permanent sense of outrage and entitlement, and taught no useful skills.” He forgets that they receive
    the skill set, if that is the right phrase,
    for entering the booming industry of anti-racism training, diversity consulting, and D/E/I bureaucracy. With a little verbal fluency, the combination he lists might even
    get them onto the New York Times staff.

  13. When the argument was fundamentally about police and everyone knows that a slur against police, the slur against police is pig.

    Trying to claim piggy as anything else is either a disingenuous stretch or a sign of a peculiar ignorance.

  14. He only started caring when the activists came to his own house. Reminds me of the CHAZ, which was only cleared after the mayor got scared in a similar manner.

    1. You don’t know that; the protests were only last weekend and the discussions about the police force may have been going on for some time. He may have gotten MAD at that point, but where is your evidence that when they were outside his house that that was when he started caring?

      Another attempt to dismiss the letter based on an unsupported speculation.

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