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Northwestern U. May Have Broken Federal Law by Failing to Report Crimes During Anti-Israel Protests

Northwestern University appears to have broken U.S. law by not taking and publishing police reports from students who say they were assaulted, battered, stolen from, or witnessed crimes committed by anti-Israel protesters.
Northwestern University Deputy Police Chief Eric Chin and an anti-Israel protester are asked to return flags stolen from a local resident.
Northwestern University Deputy Police Chief Eric Chin and an anti-Israel protester are asked to return flags stolen from a local resident.

By: Tony Kinnett, The Daily Signal

Northwestern University may have violated a federal law by failing to report crimes on campus at least five times during recent anti-Israel protests.

Northwestern appears to have violated a U.S. law called the Clery Act by not taking and publishing police reports from students who say they were assaulted, battered, stolen from, or witnessed crimes committed by anti-Israel protesters on campus. Failure to do so would allow the university to report lower crime numbers and portray a false picture of campus safety.

Northwestern, a private school that receives hundreds of millions of dollars annually in federal subsidies, contracts, and grants, is already in hot water after capitulating to anti-Israel rioters who illegally occupied both its campuses, in Chicago and in Evanston, Illinois.

This week in Washington, a House committee expects to hear from Northwestern’s president on what he did about the protests and why.

Northwestern capitulated by agreeing to pay Palestinian students and faculty and to establish an advisory committee to reconsider the university’s connections to businesses that operate in Israel, including Coca-Cola and Starbucks.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has asked Northwestern President Michael Schill to appear Thursday morning for a hearing regarding these events and administrators’ actions.

A university’s liability could run into millions of dollars with only one violation of the Clery Act, Max Eden, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, pointed out last week in an op-ed for the Washington Examiner. Northwestern, he wrote, may have far more to answer for.

The Daily Signal compiled these five incidents for which there appears to be no official police report.

Nov. 16: Assault, Battery Apparently Downplayed

On Nov. 16, Yasmeen Elagha, a Northwestern law student participating in an anti-Israel protest on the Evanston campus, allegedly berated a fellow law student, Melody Mostow, for taking photographs of the demonstration.

Mostow, who is Jewish, was well known on campus for having a close family friend among the 250 hostages taken by the Hamas terrorist organization when it massacred 1,200 people Oct. 7 in Israel. She was disturbed when fellow Northwestern students appeared to target her personally during the Nov. 16 protest.

In public comments, Mostow alleged that Elagha pushed her in the back. She filed a report with Northwestern University Police about the incident involving Elagha.

However, the official crime log kept by campus police reports the incident as “harassment,” instead of as an assault or battery.

Illinois law defines battery as “knowingly without legal justification by any means (1) [causing] bodily harm to an individual or (2) [making] physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with an individual.” State law defines assault as “knowingly [engaging] in conduct which places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.”

The Daily Signal sought comment from Elagha. Rifqa Falaneh, a recent law school graduate and fellow at the organization Palestine Legal, responded by referring “all media inquiries” to Northwestern University’s media contact.

April 25: Police Refuse to Take Report or Recover Stolen Flags

After pro-Palestinian demonstrators set up an encampment April 5 on Northwestern’s Evanston campus, university police appear to have begun refusing to accept and record some crime reports at all.

On the first day of the encampment, local resident John Brinkman stood just off campus displaying an American flag and an Israeli flag.

Demonstrators stole Brinkman’s flags, hiding them in a tent just inside the encampment, eyewitnesses told campus police. Brinkman and an eyewitness, Michael Teplitsky, approached nearby campus police officers and showed video evidence of the theft and the location of the flags, but Teplitsky said officers refused to take a report.

In an exclusive video provided to The Daily Signal by Teplitsky, he can be heard showing university Deputy Police Chief Eric Chin the stolen flags and the tent where they were kept, as both a member of the encampment and Chin refuse to retrieve the stolen property.

Photos and videos provided to The Daily Signal show a videographer for WLS-TV, an ABC affiliate, holding up his camera to an Evanston police officer, so the officer could see his footage of the flag thefts and the tent where the thieves put them.

Teplitsky told The Daily Signal that campus police refused to take a report and instead referred Brinkman to the Evanston Police Department, which arrived minutes later. One of the city’s police officers took down an incident report and saw additional evidence, he said.

Despite video evidence and several eyewitness reports, and with the stolen property just yards away, neither city police nor university police chose to enter the pro-Palestine, anti-Israel encampment to recover the two flags.

The city of Evanston’s response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act, obtained Monday by The Daily Signal, indicates that Chin, the deputy chief of campus police, may have lied about filing a report.

According to texts between Chin and Cmdr. Scott Sophier of the Evanston Police Department, Chin wrote (in an incomplete sentence): “We do have a community member who was standing on Sheridan rd waiving [sic] an American flag and Israeli flag removed from their hands and passed into the encampment. We are taking report.”

In addition to Teplitsky’s statement that Chin refused to take down an incident report for campus police, no account of an April 25 theft appears on Northwestern University Police’s crime blotter, indicating that it didn’t record the incident.

April 25: No Report of Student’s Assault by Anti-Israel Protesters

Also on April 25, anti-Israel protesters in the encampment at Northwestern assaulted student Logan Schiciano, slapping his smart phone from his hands and appearing to throw a few punches, after they saw Schiciano recording them setting up more tents, according to a video he posted on X.

However, this assault isn’t listed on Northwestern University Police’s crime blotter, despite requirements of the Clery Act.

The incident is referenced, though, in the hearing appearance request sent to Schill by the House committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.

April 28: Campus Police Decline to Take Report of Alleged Assault by Professor

A few days later, DePaul University student Ben Dym joined a rally organized by Jewish students at Northwestern. Dym approached protesters in the anti-Israel encampment as they advanced on Jewish students while chanting for them to go home.

A video posted by Dym on X shows him repeatedly asking protesters where the 7 million Jews who live in Israel should go. An individual identified by Dym as Northwestern professor Noelle Sullivan appears to attempt to slap Dym’s smart phone out of his hands.

According to the university, Sullivan is associate director and professor of global health studies.

Dym, who contends that he was physically assaulted, said he was unable to file a report with campus police.

He told The Daily Signal that campus police said the conflict wasn’t “in their jurisdiction” because the incident took place on a sidewalk outside a Northwestern University building.

Campus police didn’t respond to an email from The Daily Signal seeking confirmation of that statement.

May 6: Police Refuse to Take Report on Alleged Assault, Battery by Second Professor

On May 6, Teplitsky attempted to file a report with Northwestern University Police after saying he witnessed journalism professor Steven Thrasher’s inflammatory social media posts and subsequent battery of campus police officers April 26.

In a video Teplitsky provided to campus police and The Daily Signal, Thrasher is seen shoving police officers who appear to be attempting to make arrests.

This wasn’t Thrasher’s first such altercation. During the Black Lives Matter riots of 2020, Thrasher told NPR that “some violence” against police and local communities was “warranted.” Current Affairs magazine posted an April 26 video in which Thrasher may be seen participating in Columbia University’s anti-Israel riots.

Thrasher appeared to share photos and updates on the “Popular University 4 Gaza” group message board on WhatsApp, describing what he called a “faculty defense line with faculty to try to stop arrests.”

Thrasher’s actions, documented on social media posts by watchdog groups, were directly referenced in Foxx’s letter to Schill about the House committee’s hearing.

Teplitsky told The Daily Signal that campus police refused to take an incident report from him when he called the evening of April 26. There is no correlating assault listed on campus police’s crime blotter.

The Daily Signal unsuccessfully attempted to reach Thrasher via social media and the professor’s university email address to verify the authenticity of the messages and Teplitsky’s claims.

Other apparent violations of the Clery Act may have occurred.

An April 28 video provided by Teplitsky shows one campus police officer, Richard Ryzewski, refusing to take incident reports about crimes on campus and saying the decision was “above” his “pay grade.”

The Clery Act also requires that universities make three years of crime logs available for public inspection. Here, too, Northwestern has failed.

City Journal sought to review police incident reports associated with a hate crime that occurred on campus in November 2022. But Northwestern maintains only two months’ worth of incidents on its online crime blotter.

The Clery Act requires that a university’s crime log compiled by campus police for the most recent 60-day period must be accessible for public inspection during normal business hours, and that a university must provide the most recent three years of data within two business days of a request from the public.

Northwestern didn’t return repeated phone calls or emails from The Daily Signal.

The online archive of the Northwestern Police Department’s crime blotter makes no reference to a widely reported incident of targeted anti-Jewish vandalism on Nov. 9, 2022.

Undergraduate student Lily Cohen wrote an op-ed in the campus newspaper, published that day, titled “I am more proud of my Jewish identity than anyone can ever hate me for it.”

In the op-ed, Cohen expressed her frustration at seeing the phrase “from the river to the sea” displayed throughout campus. She called for Northwestern to condemn the phrase as a hateful slogan.

Subsequently, unknown vandals printed Cohen’s op-ed dozens of times and assembled the printouts into a banner. They displayed the banner on a fence that would mark the border of an unauthorized encampment more than a year later.

This action, which could be considered intimidation enough to warrant a charge of assault or a racially targeted hate crime under federal law (Title VI), also isn’t documented among Northwestern University’s public reports or crime statistics.

Neither Northwestern nor its campus police department responded to The Daily Signal’s requests for comment on this report.

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