To all members of the Northeastern University community:

Over the weekend, like many colleges and universities nationwide, Northeastern faced an untenable dilemma. While we embrace – and even celebrate – the spirited exchange of divergent views, we must balance that aspiration with our responsibility for the safety and well-being of more than 30,000 people who live, work and study on our Boston campus. We must always be vigilant in maintaining an environment in which those activities can take place without fear of harassment, intimidation, and name calling.

These are turbulent times. There are no acts or options available to the university that will satisfy the convictions, emotions, experiences, and beliefs of everyone in our global community. However, given the very public nature in which this weekend’s events unfolded, we are writing to shed light on the full set of circumstances that led the university to disperse an encampment that had overtaken Centennial Common.

First, the encampment was an unauthorized occupation of university space. Protesters not affiliated with Northeastern were trespassing on private property. Student protesters were in violation of longstanding university policy on demonstrations. Numerous attempts by our Student Life staff to engage directly with students were repeatedly rejected.

Second, the steadily increasing presence of protesters not affiliated with the university led to a clear escalation in tensions. While these non-affiliates are clearly passionate about their cause, we are not able to hold them accountable for their actions through the university’s traditional avenues and codes of conduct. The Northeastern University Police Department eventually concluded that the protest would soon present a threat to the safety of all involved.

Third, the persistent use of intolerant and hurtful speech over the course of two days reached a crescendo late Friday night. Hate speech has no place in any decent society, least of all on a college campus. The identities and motivations of individuals who made reprehensible antisemitic statements—irrespective of who they are—are being investigated.

All of these factors, taken together, left university leaders with no choice but to act. It is important to note that all protesters were provided with several advance notices that the encampment would be dismantled. Protesters were offered several opportunities to leave the area and face no legal consequences. Many people took advantage of those opportunities.

Those who refused to leave were detained by police. Students who showed a valid Northeastern ID before arrest were released and will face disciplinary proceedings in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct. Those not affiliated with Northeastern, or who refused to show identification, were arrested. According to the official police report, 98 individuals were arrested, including 29 Northeastern students and 6 Northeastern faculty and staff.

The escalation of tensions on Friday night made it necessary to restore civility and ensure that our campus is a place where all students—including the more than 8,000 who are celebrating their commencements this week—can share in full and free access to space and facilities.

The week ahead represents the culmination of our collective work. Commencement 2024 will showcase the incredible achievements of our students, who will harness what they’ve learned at Northeastern to tackle society’s grand challenges. While debate and disagreement are hallmarks of academic discourse, we must never demonize those with whom we disagree. We must remain one community united in the pursuit of knowledge.


Ken Henderson

Chancellor and Senior Vice President for Learning

David Madigan

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs