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A photo illustration of the leaders of UCLA, Rutgers, and Northwestern set against a photo of the U.S. Capitol.

Leaders from UCLA, Rutgers and Northwestern will face Congress this week in a hearing on antisemitism.

Photo illustration by Justin Morrison/Inside Higher Ed | University of California, Los Angeles | Rutgers University | Northwestern University | Etienne Laurent/AFP/Getty Images | Architect of the Capitol

University leaders faced difficult choices as pro-Palestinian encampments spread across U.S. campuses this spring. Some called in police, who tore down tents and arrested students; others agreed to consider various protester demands, focused largely on divestment from Israel and companies profiting off its war against Hamas.

Join us today for live coverage of the House antisemitism hearing, starting at 8:45 a.m.

Now three leaders of campuses that saw active protests are set to appear before Congress, which has raised concerns about alleged antisemitic incidents surrounding the rise of encampments. University of California, Los Angeles, chancellor Gene Block, Northwestern University president Michael Schill and Rutgers University president Jonathan Holloway will all face questions about how they handled protests at their respective institutions. Of particular interest to lawmakers are the deals Northwestern and Rutgers struck with encampment demonstrators; UCLA drew their attention for becoming a flashpoint for violence.

Here’s a look at the three presidents who are set to testify today.

Gene Block, UCLA

Time in office: 17 years

Higher ed experience: UCLA (2007–present), University of Virginia (1978–2007)

Education: Stanford University (B.A.), University of Oregon (M.S./Ph.D.)

Campus protest situation: Students established a pro-Palestinian encampment on April 25 which quickly attracted counterprotesters, who attacked the encampment and physically assaulted UCLA student journalists on the night of April 30. Fearing an escalation of violence between the two sides, UCLA leaders asked police to clear the encampment on May 2. Observers have highlighted the situation at UCLA as unusually volatile and a rare instance of violence among what have been mostly peaceful campus protests. The administration's reaction has drawn scrutiny from faculty members, state officials and now Congress.

Comments on the protests: Block has released several statements on the protests, initially describing the encampment as “unauthorized” and emphasizing his support for peaceful protest. As protesters clashed, Block condemned the violence, calling it “a dark chapter in our campus’s history;” he later stated that “our community is in deep pain.” Block has since announced the formation of a new Office of Campus Safety and an investigation into the violence on April 30.

Notable details: Faculty members have raised concerns about how Block handled the protests and the accompanying violence. The president narrowly avoided a vote of no confidence from UCLA faculty members last week. A resolution to censure Block failed on a tie vote, The Los Angeles Times reported. Block, 75, is stepping down later this year—a move he announced last summer.

Michael Schill, Northwestern

Time in office: ~2 years

Higher ed experience: Former president of the University of Oregon (2015–2022). Has held faculty and administrative positions at the University of Chicago (2009–2015), UCLA (2004–2009), New York University (1995–2004) and the University of Pennsylvania (1992–95).

Education: Princeton University (B.A.), Yale Law School (J.D.)

Campus protest situation: Northwestern student protesters established a pro-Palestinian encampment on April 24. Five days later, Schill announced an agreement with demonstrators, which, among other concessions, included re-establishing an Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility, supporting Palestinian students and visiting faculty, and providing more space for Muslim student groups. Students voluntarily removed the encampment, but some protest activity has continued; one May 13 incident involved the vandalism of American and Israeli flags, which Schill denounced and promised to investigate.

Comments on the protests: Schill made a series of statements on the demonstrations, first cautioning students against “disrupting classes and our educational mission” and later explaining why he struck a deal with protesters. In a video statement on April 30, Schill said he recognized “the hurt and worry felt by so many in our community,” noting that Jewish students were feeling “threatened and unsafe” while Muslim and Palestinian students “voices need to be heard.” Schill highlighted the agreement as a “sustainable, de-escalated path forward” that prioritized safety for all students.

Schill also denounced antisemitism, saying it “needs to be condemned by all of us, and that starts with me.” He noted the death of his great grandfather in a Russian pogrom, as well as some relatives in Poland who were “rounded up and sent to the camps” in the 1930s, while others settled in Israel.

Notable details: Schill was hired at Northwestern in 2022 after incoming president Rebecca Blank backed out of the job due to an “aggressive” cancer diagnosis; she died last year. Schill made headlines last summer for firing Northwestern’s football coach amid hazing allegations.

Jonathan Holloway, Rutgers

Time in office: ~4 years

Higher ed experience: Former provost of Northwestern (2017–2020). Previously served in multiple roles at Yale University (1999–2017), rising to the rank of dean. Holloway began his career as a professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, San Diego (1994–1999).

Education: Stanford University (B.A.). Yale University (M.A., Ph.D.)

Campus protest situation: The Rutgers protest encampment was short-lived, lasting from April 29 to May 2. While some final exams were disrupted by the protest, Rutgers avoided the chaos seen on some other campuses when leaders reached an agreement to meet certain student demands, including providing support for displaced Palestinian students, conducting a study on the feasibility of creating a Department of Middle East studies and exploring collaboration with Birzeit University in the West Bank.

Comments on the protests: Holloway released two public statements on May 2. In the first, he emphasized a strategy of de-escalating campus tensions while also expressing disappointment over disruptions to final exams. The second, which came after the encampment concluded, constituted a “note of appreciation” to all who worked to end the protest peacefully.

Holloway had a trial run for Thursday’s confrontation with Congressional lawmakers when he appeared before a state Assembly Budget Committee on May 9. In that appearance, he denounced antisemitism and Islamophobia. He also noted his opposition to divesting from Israel and breaking ties with Tel Aviv University, as protesters had requested. The president downplayed the significance of the concessions made to pro-Palestinian students, suggesting they were “fairly minor and reasonable.” Asked about what he might say to Congress, Holloway emphasized an “intolerance” for hatred at Rutgers and underscored the role of critical dialogue and thought in the university’s mission.

Notable details: Holloway has navigated multiple controversies as president, including a faculty strike and the unexplained ouster of Nancy Cantor, the popular chancellor of Rutgers University at Newark. Holloway, who received a no confidence vote from faculty last fall related to the strike, is rumored to be a candidate to replace Peter Salovey as president of Yale University, where he served as dean.

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