5 May 2024
care & support for our students

Dear Elissa and Martin,

Faculty were present from 11am, when the encampment began on Saturday, until 6pm, when the last student (and some faculty colleagues) was loaded into a police van. This dedication to the safety and well-being of our students should make us all proud — particularly on a day in which students, whose safety had been entrusted to us, were appallingly, arrested en masse. These arrests were made despite the fact that students were protesting peacefully, per the thoughtful community guidelines they drew up and which governed their gathering. The administrative team who were present also seemed genuinely to have the students' well-being and safety as their primary concern, and faculty who were present were encouraged by what seemed to be an authentic care for our students on the part of administration, and the willingness to work as a unified team with students and faculty alike. In particular, Martin Berger seemed to work hard to negotiate not just a change of location, but also to buy time — overnight — for the students, so that they could consult all their stakeholders, since they were organizing through a consensus model. Martin seemed deeply distressed when he delivered the news to students that even though he had guaranteed that the students could have until 6am to decide whether to move the encampment to the 280 building, that guarantee was no longer valid, and that AIC had called the police in (with their full SWAT team), and were going to start making arrests of nearly 70 students. According to Martin, this change of tactic, on the part of AIC leadership, was because of the growing number of Chicagoans gathering on Michigan Avenue in support of Palestinian rights.

Given this, we are confused, dismayed and angry to read the press reports that indicate an alternative narrative to the one we witnessed — one that suggests that only a small number of protesters in the encampment were SAIC students, and one which blames the students for intransigence. And most alarmingly, the NYT article, entitled “The police arrest dozens of people at the Art Institute of Chicago,” in which journalist Yan Zhuang reports that “The Chicago police said on social media that officers had removed the protesters at the school’s request.” This is not what we were given to understand by Martin. We demand, as an immediate course of action, that SAIC administration:

Urge AIC to immediately drop the misdemeanor trespassing charges for those 68 arrested — our students, faculty, alums, and community members.

Correct the record on what took place, acknowledge who called police on our students, and make clear that far from being inflexible, students were close to accepting the offer to shift locations by 6am, when they were presented with a bait and switch and given 7 minutes to make a decision to decamp or face arrest, which is an impossible amount of time in any situation, but particularly in a consensus model.

Explain why, if the problem for AIC was with protesters on Michigan Avenue, arrests were made of our students in the enclosed area, rather than on Michigan Avenue. Keep its promise that students will receive no disciplinary action and will have full academic immunity. This was something Martin promised to them even if they chose the path of peaceful mass arrest and even if they decided to accept criminal charges. We request that you send a letter to all faculty, instructing them that these students will be allowed extensions and should be given grades of INC, rather than NCR, to afford them the opportunity to pass the school year.

As faculty, we are reeling from the bait and switch and angry that our administrators could not protect our students and, according to the news media, were responsible for calling the police on them. We know there will be a lot of healing to repair their trust before the start of the next school year, and we recommend that this be done with outside mediators, using a Restorative Justice framework.

Last night, until well after midnight, and again from 4am Sunday morning, it was faculty (the majority of whom were NTT) and alumni who mobilized to give students (and a few of our colleagues) support and rides home. Again, this commitment and care of our students should be celebrated by our institution, but if we are going to be able to do that in any sort of trusting way, we suggest reaching out to student organizers, listening to what they need from you in order to heal this breach of trust, and acting on that as quickly as possible.

Signed by FJP


Sid Branca, Assistant Professor Adjunct, FVNMA

Seth Kim-Cohen, Professor, Art History, Theory, and Criticism

Tirtza Even, Professor, FVNMA

Maria Gaspar, Associate Professor, CP

Anneli Goeller, Lecturer, FVNMA

Kristi McGuire, Professor, Adj., VCS

Mary Patten, Professor, FVNMA

Rhoda Rosen, Associate Professor, Adj., Art History, Theory, and Criticism

Sarah Ross, Associate Professor, Art Ed

jina valentine, associate prof, printmedia

138 verified
  1. Mikolaj Czerwinski, Lecturer, Art History, Theory, and Criticism, Chicago
  2. Danny Floyd, Lecturer, Visual and Critical Studies, Chicago
  3. Sarah Bastress, Lecturer, CP
  4. Luna E. Melisande Jaskowiak, Lecturer, LAS, SAIC
  5. Keefer Dunn, Associate Professor, Adj., SAIC, Chicago
  6. Kitty Rauth, Lecturer, Contemporary Practices, Chicago
  7. Evan Fusco, Lecturer, Contemporary Practices, Chicago
  8. Aiko Kojima Hibino, Lecturer, Liberal Arts, SAIC
  9. Jordan Martins, Educator, SAIC, Chicago
  10. Chris Collins, Lecturer, FVNMA, Chicago
  11. Chris Reeves, Lecturer, Art History, Theory, and Criticism, Chicago
  12. Anna Martine Whitehead, Assistant Professor, Contemporary Practices, SAIC, Chicago
  13. Biff Keough, Alumni, SAIC, Chicago
  14. Elliott Gronemeyer, Alumni, SAIC, Chicago
  15. Elena Ailes, Associate Professor, Adj., Contemporary Practices, SAIC, Chicago
  16. Paul Elitzik, Assoc. Prof., Adj., Liberal Arts, ret'd
  17. Allie n Steve Mullen, Assoc Prof, Adj | ATS/SP
  18. Kat Bawden, Lecturer, SAIC, Chicago
  19. Claire Fleming Staples, Lecturer, CP, SAIC, Chicago
  20. Ále Campos,, Lecturer, SAIC Performance, Chicago
98 more
verified signatures
  1. Fola Akinde, Alumni, Miami
  2. Iris Zhu, Student, Cal, Berkeley
  3. Gabriel Ransenberg, Librarian, Columbia College Alumni, Austin TX
  4. Abby Bucio, Student, Fibers Artist, Chicago
  5. Rachel Evers, student, SAIC, chicago
  6. Alison Ruttan, SAIC, Oak Park
  7. Nicole Davis, Alum, SAIC, Chicago
  8. Nakiyah Longstreet, Student, Fine Artist, SAIC, Chicago
  9. Emily Reinhard, Fishers
  10. Anthony Hamilton, Staff/CS Faculty, School of the Art Institute, Chicago
  11. Josephine Yanasak-Leszczynski, Rights + Reproductions Specialist, Art Institute of Chicago
  12. Lily Clouse, MAVCS Alum, SAIC
  13. Catie Rutledge, SAIC Alumni, Chicago
  14. thomas huston, MAVCS Alum
  15. Erin Shales, Senior Animator, Indianapolis
  16. Azita Youssefi, Alumni, SAIC, Chicago
  17. Jacqueline Sartore, Alumni, SAIC
  18. Sarah Belknap, Associate Professor, Adj., CP, Sculpture, Academic Spine
  19. Jo belknap, Associate Prof. ,Adj. CP, Chicago
  20. Pablo Garcia, Associate Professor, Contemporary Practices, Chicago
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