Northwestern president to testify on Capitol Hill in wake of campus protests

In a matter of hours, Northwestern University President Michael Schill will report to Capitol Hill. He’s been called to testify about antisemitism in the wake of pro-Palestinian encampments that have taken hold on college campuses across the nation.

Along with Schill, the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce has summoned Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway and UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.

Titled ‘Calling for Accountability: Stopping Antisemitic College Chaos,’ the committee hearing is scheduled for Thursday at 10:15 a.m. local time.

There, Schill is expected to field questions from members of Congress, including committee chairwoman U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) who recently had choice words for some university leaders.  

"The committee has a clear message for mealy-mouthed, spineless college leaders: Congress will not tolerate your dereliction of your duty to your Jewish students," Foxx said. "No stone must go unturned while buildings are being defaced, campus greens are being captured, or graduations are being ruined. College is not a park for playacting juveniles or a battleground for radical activists. Everyone affiliated with these universities will receive a healthy dose of reality: actions have consequences."

The hearing comes about three weeks after Schill and other Northwestern officials struck a deal with student demonstrators who were occupying Deering Meadow on campus.  

At the time, Schill called the agreement a "sustainable and de-escalated path forward," adding that it "enhances the safety of all members of the Northwestern community while providing space for free expression that complies with University rules and policies."

In recent weeks, as students protesting the Israel-Hamas war posted up on campuses across the nation, officials at some universities called in the police to dismantle encampments, while others – like Schill – met at the bargaining table.

Demonstrators had been urging Northwestern to disclose and divest from partnerships that support Israel.

In exchange for protesters dismantling tents and halting the use of loudspeakers in Deering Meadow, the university met several of their demands, including a commitment to re-establish an ‘Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility,’ which will include student representation.

The move, however, did not come without scrutiny – including from the Chicago Jewish Alliance.  

"For demands to be essentially conceded to by this university president, we see as really unacceptable," said Josh Weiner, co-founder, Chicago Jewish Alliance.

What pro-Palestinian students looked at as a victory on campus, left some Jewish students feeling isolated.

At least one student is even suing Northwestern, claiming ‘inaction’ by school leadership against ‘antisemitic rhetoric and behavior’ amid the protests.

"Why are we in a situation where we’re seeing an environment where Jews are literally not allowed to go in certain spaces," said Weiner. "When we hear things like ‘Intifada,’ and we hear things like calls for the destruction of Israel, those make Jewish students feel very uncomfortable."

On Northwestern’s campus, a small group of protesters remains in Deering Meadow, but camping tents are gone, and hundreds of posters along the fence have been removed.

As part of the agreement, Schill is allowing students to demonstrate in the meadow until June 1.  

Thursday’s congressional committee hearing will be live-streamed. The link to watch it can be found HERE.