Addressing intimidating speech on university property: May 7, 2024

To the Case Western Reserve community,

I fully support individuals’ rights to share their viewpoints in accordance with our freedom of expression policy. However, that policy—and the core values that define our university—have been continually violated over the past eight days, including yesterday afternoon when protesters at the non-sanctioned encampment on Kelvin Smith Library Oval painted an advocacy wall near Eldred Hall with language the university administration and many members of our community view as threatening, intimidating and antisemitic.

As I have repeatedly noted, constructive, meaningful exchanges should never involve harassment, incitement, or behavior that threatens and is intimidating to our community. I strongly condemn the language posted yesterday on the advocacy wall, and want to reiterate to our entire community that such language—no matter to whom it is directed—will not be tolerated on our campus.

After defacing the advocacy wall, later in the evening, the protesters painted the spirit wall near Thwing Center with language that was less threatening but still intimidating to some in our community. The university has painted over the advocacy wall and will complete painting over the spirit wall this morning. The university is investigating an incident in which one or more protesters blocking the spirit wall were hit by paint.

The students involved in yesterday’s advocacy wall painting and those who continue to break university policy by remaining in an unapproved encampment on private property will be held fully accountable for their actions through the conduct process. Any faculty and staff members who take part in activities that violate the freedom of expression policy—which this encampment does—also will be required to go through a conduct process. The actions of all participants, whether within or outside the CWRU community, may also be in violation of criminal or civil law. 

I understand and appreciate the importance of advocating for a cause that is deeply personal and undeniably tragic, as the Israel-Hamas war and the resulting loss of lives are in Israel and Gaza. But advocacy for a cause is most persuasive when it goes back to those core values upon which Case Western Reserve operates, with responsibility, civility and ethical behavior among them. I urge the student protesters to remove the encampment and begin the student conduct process. 


Eric W. Kaler