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Important Encampment Update

Dear Emersonians,

We write with important updates about the ongoing encampment in support of Palestine in the Boylston Place Alley. Consistent with Emerson’s values and as a matter of principle, we support our community’s right to express their views through protest. However, they must do so in a manner consistent with the laws of the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Our utmost priority is the safety and welfare of our community, and we are deeply concerned that the protesters are risking legal consequences beyond Emerson’s control when they do not abide by city and state laws. 

As previously shared, Boylston Place Alley is not solely owned by Emerson College and has a public right-of-way under the jurisdiction of the Boston Police Department (BPD) and the Boston Fire Department (BFD). Earlier today, the Commissioners of the BPD and BFD directly informed Emerson’s leadership that some actions of the protestors are in direct violation of city ordinances, which could result in imminent law enforcement action. Most notably, the Commissioners expressed that the tents occupying Boylston Place Alley violate city ordinances prohibiting tents in a public right-of-way. They also noted alleged violations involving blocking pedestrian access to the alley, public noise violations, and ongoing reports of fire hazards posed by blocking doors and hydrants. These are not Emerson College rules but laws and ordinances enforced by the city and the commonwealth.

Emerson College has previously communicated the information we received from the City of Boston about ordinance violations to the protestors on multiple occasions over several days. This information was also communicated on Monday evening during a meeting with students, staff, and faculty involved in the protest when we offered the protestors the option of using The Loft to warm up overnight if they voluntarily removed the tents.

Of additional concern, Emerson has received credible reports that some protestors are engaging in targeted harassment and intimidation of Jewish supporters of Israel and students, staff, faculty, and neighbors seeking to pass through the alley. This type of behavior is unacceptable on our campus. To ensure the safety of our community, Emerson has placed members of the Windwalker Security staff at the Boylston Place alley to ensure safe and consistent access to the alley as required by law. Students, staff, and faculty who feel unsafe may also request an escort from the Emerson College Police Department. 

Emerson College remains steadfast in its support of community members’ right to peacefully protest. However, we must also emphasize that we cannot prevent the enforcement of Boston city ordinances or Massachusetts state law. We strongly urge the protestors and their supporters to immediately comply with these laws to avoid legal consequences beyond the College’s authority or control. 

We understand these have been difficult weeks and wish everyone well as we close the spring semester. 

Sincerely,

Jay Bernhardt, President
Carolina Avellaneda, Vice President and General Counsel
Allison Dawson, Vice President for Institutional Advancement
Paul Dworkis, Vice President for Administration and Finance
Jim Hoppe, Vice President and Dean of Campus Life
Shaya Gregory Poku, Vice President for Equity & Social Justice
Margaret Ings, Vice President for Government and Community Relations
Melissa Richards, Vice President and Chief of Staff
Jan Roberts-Breslin, Interim Vice President and Provost
Justin Sharifipour, Interim Vice President for Enrollment Management

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