Officers arrested 41 students at Brown University after students broke school policies by refusing to leave the University Hall in an anti-Israel protest.
“Brown University issued multiple trespass warning to students who refused to leave University Hall after staging a sit-in, and ultimately moved forward arresting 41 students who made the choice to remain in the building, where their presence after operating hours posed security concerns,” spokesperson Brian Clark said in statement shared with The Lion.
The students entered the “rotunda” at approximately 9:05 a.m. to begin the sit-in. At 9:15 a.m. the students reportedly sent President Christina Paxson a letter demanding the university divest “its endowment from Israeli military occupation.”
“I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your document that includes a demand that Brown ‘promote a permanent ceasefire by divesting from companies that facilitate the genocide in Gaza,’” Paxson replied, in a letter obtained by The Lion, before warning the students that staying in the building after business hours “poses security concerns.”
“In regard to your presence in University Hall today, my expectation is that you will leave the building by 5 p.m., which is the end of normal operating hours,” Paxson wrote. “Should you choose to remain in University Hall past business hours, we are prepared to enforce Brown’s policies, which prevent students from remaining in secured, non-residential buildings after normal operating hours. Willful trespass of a school building is unlawful per Rhode Island statue and a violation of Brown’s conduct code; implications include arrest, criminal charges and review per the University’s conduct procedures.”
Regarding the demand of divestment, Clark emphasizes that the university’s endowment is managed by external investment managers adhering to ethical standards.
“It is also worth noting that a common misunderstanding is that Brown directly invests its endowment in individual stocks, bonds and other financial instruments,” Clark told The Lion. “In fact, the Brown University endowment is almost entirely invested through external specialist investment managers, all with the highest level of ethics and all whom we believe share the values of the Brown community. This includes the rejection of violence. The endowment is not directly invested in defense stocks or large munitions manufacturers. This can be clearly seen through Brown’s SEC filings, which are publicly available.”
Despite the president’s warning, the students remained in the building until they were arrested by Brown’s public safety officers and the Providence Police Department shortly after 6 p.m.
Instead of being detained in physical custody, students were photographed, fingerprinted and provided their arrest paperwork on campus grounds before they were released.
“It’s essential to highlight that arresting students is not an action that Brown takes lightly, and it’s not something the University ever wants to do,” Clark told The Lion. “The students were informed that staying in the building after business hours poses security concerns. In addition, after the arrest of 20 students Nov. 8 for willful trespass, the implications of remaining in the building were very clear.”
CEO of the American Jewish Committee Ted Deutch praised Paxson for her decision to hold students accountable.
“This is leadership,” Deutch posted on X. “I commend Brown University Pres. Paxson for enforcing the campus Code of Conduct and speaking out against Israel divestment.”
Clark claims the university is prepared to press harsher charges for any future incidents.
“The disruption to secure buildings is not acceptable, and the University is prepared to escalate charges for future incidents of students occupying secure buildings,” Clark stated. “Given that this is the second prominent incident in recent weeks of students trespassing in a secure, non-residential building after operating hours, the University fully expects to recommend more significant criminal misdemeanor charges for any future incidents after the Dec. 11 sit-in.”