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The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

In New Strategy, Pro-Palestine Demonstrators Protest Directly to Admissions Tour Groups

UCUP directed its messaging specifically to prospective students and families through a day of chants, speeches, and rallies.
Nathaniel Rodwell-Simon
Protestors rallied outside ISAC

In its first major action since organizers were arrested at Rosenwald Hall on Thursday, UChicago United for Palestine (UCUP) adopted a new strategy on Saturday: protesting directly to tour groups.

UCUP is a coalition of on-campus groups such as #CareNotCops, UChicago Students for Justice in Palestine, UChicago Against Displacement, the UChicago Environmental Justice Task Force, National Lawyers Guild at UChicago, Stand with Kashmir UChicago, and the UChicago Democratic Socialists of America.

Small groups of UCUP demonstrators positioned themselves at locations frequented by admissions tour guides as they led prospective students and their families around campus. These locations included the Smart Museum Courtyard, the main quad, and near Mansueto. Upon encountering a tour group, demonstrators raised posters and chanted slogans such as “Gaza, Gaza, don’t you cry, we will never let you die!”

After gathering outside of the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures (ISAC) at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, demonstrators split into two groups. One group headed north along University Avenue while the other moved into the main quad.

From there, the groups split up further, moving to areas where they knew tour groups would pass by and gather. As they walked, the protestors chanted and held posters.

One group gathered in the courtyard of the Smart Museum, at which point one UCUP student organizer told the group, “At this point we’re gonna wait for tours.” The same protester then remarked that “[tours] are required to pass through here.”

According to a third-year tour guide who led a group past the protests, the admissions department knew about the protests ahead of time and gave their tour guides fair warning. The admissions department directed tours out of the side door of the ISAC while UCUP demonstrators stood at the front entrance.

The same tour guide told The Maroon that representatives from admissions were posted along the tour routes to help guide groups away from protests.

Meanwhile, UCUP actively sought out tour groups. At one point, one organizer told their group, “There’s a tour right around the corner!” The group then moved quickly towards the tour group and began chanting.

Saturday’s action signals a shift in UCUP’s strategy. By protesting to tours, the group specifically targeted prospective students, parents, and donors, tailoring their messaging to these groups.

In a statement to The Maroon, the University reiterated its commitment to free speech but emphasized that demonstrations could not interfere with University activities.

“As part of our commitment to free expression, the University of Chicago is deeply committed to upholding the rights of protesters and speakers to express a wide range of views. University policies also make it clear that demonstrations cannot jeopardize safety or disrupt the University’s operations and the ability of people in the University to carry out their work.”

One chant placed particular emphasis on tuition money. Activists shouted, “UChicago loves investment, UChicago hates its students! Where should your tuition go? Bombs and killing hell no!”

Along with their chanting, UCUP organizers spoke directly to the tour groups to explain why they were protesting and the trajectory of their activism in the past month.

“We’re out here today because we wanted to disrupt University business as usual,” one student organizer who was arrested on Thursday told The Maroon. “And so much of that goes into its image and the admissions process…We want to make it clear to those [prospective students] that the University that they’re so interested in, as we all were once, is in fact funding genocide.”

Some tour guides expressed frustration with the disruption.

“I can’t hear you guys! You’re not loud enough!” a tour guide said sarcastically as a group of UCUP demonstrators chanted around 10 feet away from them near the Smart Museum.

A different tour guide, leading their group through a circle of UCUP demonstrators, asked, “Can you say it without the megaphone?” to one organizer, who responded simply with “No” and continued leading chants.

The same tour guide later told The Maroon that they felt “weird” leading their group past the UCUP demonstrators.

“I feel like I’m seen as a bad guy,” they said, adding, “It puts us in a weird place. But at the end I feel like I tied it in well. I was able to say, ‘And even this that you saw today—I know it’s chaotic—but it’s just students caring really loudly about the world that they live in. That at the end of the day is very UChicago.’”

To one bystander, an undergraduate unaffiliated with UCUP, the focus on tour groups seemed like an effective way to gain attention from the University.

“They’re trying to make a point to the University. And I don’t know, it seems like they’re kind of accomplishing what they’re hoping to accomplish in this case, like they’re trying to make tours uncomfortable.”

UCUP organizers continue to protest the University’s decision to remove their personal belongings from Rosenwald Hall following Thursday’s sit-in.

According to one student who was arrested following the sit-in, the demonstrators had stored their belongings in the locked office of a professor who had given permission for protestors to store their items there. The student said that, overnight, their items were removed. By tracking their laptop, the student said that the items are being held at a Facilities Services location at 5225 S. Cottage Grove Avenue.

That student has gone without their antidepressant and stimulant medications since they were confiscated Thursday.

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Emma Janssen, Deputy News Editor
Emma Janssen is a deputy news editor.
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Comments (8)

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  • J

    Joan Lin / Nov 18, 2023 at 7:40 pm

    Why was this not disruptive to the university operation? Why aren’t the potential students respected?

  • N

    Neil / Nov 13, 2023 at 5:10 pm

    The Hamas loving Nazis & the Jews who support them are excrement who should all be removed from Western societies!!!

  • J

    JF / Nov 13, 2023 at 3:09 pm

    Expel Hamas supporters.

    Academic liberty, religious liberty, human liberty all need defending NOW.

  • D

    David McCluskey / Nov 13, 2023 at 12:21 pm

    So who came up with this astute strategy? This will force the University to cave in to their demands and/or build public support? Childish AND ineffective!

  • C

    Corey Multer / Nov 13, 2023 at 11:40 am

    These idiots are a disgrace to the university, to America, and to humanity. They think they’re protesting for “social justice.” But they’re actually shilling for the most vile terrorists on the planet. They are complicit in Jew-hating mass murder, which they’re either to dumb to recognize or too dishonest to admit.

  • B

    Bob Michaelson / Nov 13, 2023 at 9:28 am

    It is a good idea, and useful, to bring statements of concern for Palestinian lives to tours for prospective students, but it would be much better to keep it to talking and reasoning. UofC, after all, is supposed to be a place that honors rationality (except for most of the Econ and Business School faculty). Chanting is just inane, and, frankly, boring.

  • A

    Austin Bean / Nov 12, 2023 at 2:56 pm

    I graduated in ’04 and spent ’04 – ’07 working as an assistant director in admissions. Do you know which office has literally 0 influence (if not less) over *anything* important at the University? The Undergraduate Admissions Office. You are about as well off protesting to the Transportation and Parking Services Office.

    If the University has a brain somewhere in the admin building (and I’m not saying that it does!), Undergraduate Admissions is way, WAY off in a vestigial appendage somewhere.

    Furthermore, before you tell me that this is a way to get the attention of the admin office, know that the president’s office could care less if some fraction of tours face this kind of annoyance.

  • J

    Jacob Myrene / Nov 12, 2023 at 8:00 am

    “That student has gone without their antidepressant and stimulant medications since they were confiscated Thursday.”

    There’s a lot going on there. Are the others off their meds, too? I sincerely hope they receive the help they need; clearly they are unwell.