Message Regarding Storrs Campus Protest

Sent to the University community on May 1, 2024

The official University of Connecticut seal, in painted gold on an oak panel.

(Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

To the UConn Community:


As many of you may know by now, on Tuesday morning, April 30, the University acted to ensure compliance with its policies and practices regarding larger public outdoor gatherings on our campuses, including a protest encampment that had been in place for several days at the Dove Tower in Storrs.

It was a difficult day for the University that followed many weeks of enduring the stress of the conflict in Israel and Gaza, the war between Russia and Ukraine, and other events. In these moments, for us to heal, we encourage us all to draw together as a caring community, whatever our viewpoints are on the day’s events or the larger issues at stake.

In the last few months, along with the interim Dean of Students, the Vice President for Diversity & Inclusion, and their teams, we have worked to ensure the rights of our community to engage in free expression, promoted educational efforts, and helped ensure that every member of the campus community has access to campus facilities and resources to receive the support they need.

From the onset of these conflicts, various groups in our community held vigils, protests, and established displays illustrating the loss of life and other impacts. There have also been speakers, dialogue, and other forms of education that have provided outlets for members of our community to engage with each other in deeper learning, opening opportunities for us to demonstrate our empathy toward others and their lived experiences.

These moments have not been entirely free from controversies or challenges, but they generally followed our University policies, registration procedures, and other protocols that the University has in place to ensure we are in an environment that supports the free exchange of ideas, no matter how contentious they may be.

The gathering that constituted the encampment was not registered and did not follow the University’s policies and processes, and in light of that, the first step the University administration took was to share applicable policies and practices to establish channels of communication and set clear expectations. Those rules and expectations were shared with participants and the University community, and noted: “[G]atherings are of course permitted. However, safety, health, and basic community standards need to be recognized and maintained, both in the interest of those who are gathering as well as other community members who may be impacted.”

Over the course of Sunday night into Monday, individuals who were gathered at the encampment significantly deviated from the guidelines and ignored directives to follow them, including by erecting tents and through the use of amplified sound. The group assembled was repeatedly given notice and reasonable opportunities to comply with the specified policies and practices, which do not conflict with rights to free speech and expression.

On Tuesday morning, these warnings were again issued to the group, but were again ignored. Upon being given a directive to voluntarily disperse so that police and University staff could clear the tents, some students chose to leave the area, but others chose to remain, despite being warned four times over a 30-minute period that doing so would make them subject to arrest. As a result, 24 students and one non-student were arrested without incident, and the encampment was cleared.

This was a difficult decision, although the fact that it unfolded in an orderly way is a credit both to our students and our University Safety personnel. While we all wish arrests could have been avoided, we are grateful for the largely calm response and hope that this paves the way for constructive dialogue on very serious issues facing the global community in which we all live – which is exactly what a university community should foster.

We have heard from many members of our community, families, and alumni since Friday and yesterday, with some supporting and some criticizing our response. Many have expressed appreciation that we took action to disperse the group and disband an unauthorized encampment during finals and in advance of commencement ceremonies that start on Friday. Others expressed disagreement with the decision to disperse the encampment.

We need to keep in mind that there are countless ways for students, faculty, staff, and others in our community to exercise their constitutional right to free speech that do not violate University policy or practice.

UConn unequivocally supports the rights of our students and community at large to express themselves through speech and peaceful assembly, as well as through the bedrock right of academic freedom. Indeed, notwithstanding that the group assembled did not comply with requirements to reserve the space for their use, the University initially permitted them to remain. At the same time, content-neutral restrictions on time, place, and manner of expression enable a diverse community like ours to share the same space and enjoy equal rights.

As we move toward the end of the academic year and beyond, we encourage students to freely assemble at the Dove Tower or elsewhere on campus to express their views. In doing so, however, University policies and practices for such gatherings should be observed, which are in place in support of all members of our community and our mission of education and research.

As a community, we need to consider how we can best support and facilitate constructive engagement and dialogue on campus. This is an opportunity for us to embrace the diverse points of views that enrich our academic community. We welcome all further discussion on how we can uphold the principles of free speech, our integrity as an institution, and promote peaceful learning while also upholding the rights of every member of our community to speak freely and enjoy our campuses.


President Radenka Maric

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Anne D’Alleva

Vice President for Student Life and Enrollment Nathan Fuerst