Statement of Members of the Department of Classics on the University’s Failure to Protect Student Protestors

Published: May 2, 2024

2 May 2024

We, members of the Classics Department, some of whom have been present at the events of April 30 and May 1, strongly condemn the attack by agitators against the students of UCLA, the use of police violence to harm members of our community, and the university’s failure to support our students’ right to protest peacefully and to be kept safe while doing so.

We are horrified at the university’s failure to de-escalate and protect protestors during the night of April 30, when students were verbally and physically assaulted by a mob of largely outside agitators. Faculty who were present at that event described the treatment of the students in the encampment by agitators as “brutal,” as video documentation confirms. Although security personnel and police officers were present–and were even joking with the agitators, according to faculty witnesses–it took several hours for them to step in and protect the protestors and student reporters from mob violence. In short, an unconscionable failure in leadership led to our students being attacked with chemical sprays, fireworks, metal pipes, wood, and metal barricades.

We are appalled and ashamed by what followed on May 1st-2nd, when militarized police in full riot gear used brute force, stun grenades, rubber bullets, and zip ties to intimidate protestors and supporters for several hours before storming the encampment and violently arresting 200 students and faculty who were peacefully exercising their right to protest. From the beginning, student protestors have been committed to peaceful de-escalation and non-violence, and have refused to rise to the provocation of their aggressors.

We believe that the real chaos of the past few days at UCLA has not come from the Palestinian Solidarity Encampment but rather from the university administration’s mishandling of a peaceful protest that they initially seemed to have supported. Chancellor Gene Block escalated the situation by releasing, on April 30th, a sudden about-turn in the campus’ approach, classifying the encampment as “unlawful” and “unauthorized” and threatening disciplinary action. As the faculty and staff letter of May 1 states, Chancellor Block’s email “may have created the spark that outside agitators needed to launch their attack against our students.” The irony is not lost on us that UC administration then allowed the use of militarized police force against our own students, who now feel profoundly unsafe on campus.

We are disappointed and disturbed by the way the University has failed in their responsibilities to our community in the events of the past few days, especially in regard to the following:

  1. We strongly believe that a militarized police force has no place on a college campus.

  2. We demand greater transparency from UCLA regarding efforts to create a meaningful dialogue between the protestors and administration.

  3. We require an explanation for the continued presence of the Jumbotron and its traumatizing content, which violated Title IX policy.

  4. We insist that protesting students, staff, and faculty, including those arrested, be reintegrated into our community with complete amnesty and with as much leniency and speed as possible.

We urge the administration to take seriously their responsibilities to students, staff, and faculty. We owe it to our students to redress the harms inflicted by their own university. We reassert our students’ rights to peaceful protest and demand that the university ensure their safety on campus.


Samuel Beckelhymer, Continuing Lecturer

Sarah Beckmann, Assistant Professor

David Blank, Distinguished Professor of Classics and Philosophy

Zachary Borst, Lecturer

Sara E. Cole, Lecturer

Hannah Čulík-Baird, Associate Professor

Richard Ellis, Continuing Lecturer

Ella Haselswerdt, Assistant Professor

Lena Hoang, Staff

Chris Johanson, Associate Professor

Bryant Kirkland, Associate Professor

Francesca Martelli, Professor

Sarah Morris, Steinmetz Professor

Kelly Nguyen, Assistant Professor

John K. Papadopoulos, Distinguished Professor

Alex Purves, Professor

Lydia Spielberg, Assistant Professor

Adriana Vazquez, Assistant Professor

Brent Vine, Distinguished Research Professor (Emeritus)

Greg Woolf, Ronald J. Mellor Distinguished Professor of Ancient History

(Signature collection is ongoing.)