NU President Michael Schill.

While personally condemning murders of Israelis by Hamas, Northwestern University President Michael Schill says the university itself will not be making any comment.

In a message to NU senior leadership, Schill says he and the school’s provost have been asked about a possible university statement on the war in Israel.

The NU president notes that he attended a Vigil for Israel on campus on Monday night, however, that was as “Mike Schill,” individual, and not as NU taking a position.

Schill’s message says “I am deeply repulsed, sickened and disappointed by what Hamas has done. Kidnapping, beheading, murdering people … is horrific and inhuman. Pure and simple. This sort of behavior is entirely unacceptable regardless of one’s political convictions or grievances. Period. No moral equivalencies needed.”

The NU leader said, “This is the view of Mike Schill, citizen, Jew, and human being. I didn’t give up those parts of me when I assumed the presidency of Northwestern.”

However, Schill says if he puts out an official statement as the president of Northwestern, people see that as the university’s position.

He says, “We are a University which celebrates free expression, diversity of people and diversity of viewpoints. This is essential to our role in society. The university does not speak for our students, faculty, and staff on these matters…. For me to speak for them displaces their own freedom to speak.”

Across the country some university leaders have issued statements on their schools’ behalf on the Israel-Hamas war, while others have refrained from doing so. Either approach has led to criticism.

Schill notes that regardless of what may have happened at NU in the past, “I do not foresee that I will be issuing statements on political, geopolitical or social issues that do not directly impact the core mission of our University, the education and futures of our students, or higher education.”

Schill notes that his position may be controversial.

“This reticence to speak out as President Michael Schill will sometimes please and often infuriate members of our community. But I believe it is the right approach.”

Schill’s comments have been linked by the campus Jewish center, Northwestern Hillel, to an email to its members, for their information.

The Hillel email says that the organization “is taking steps to ensure the physical safety of our students, our community, and our Hillel building.”

It notes that there has been a call by some pro-Palestinian groups for “days of Palestinian resistance.”

However, it says there have been no credible threats here or in the U.S., but “we are raising our level of alert” by working closely with Northwestern and Evanston police, with private security, and “we have requested increased support from these security partners to ensure the safety of all of our community members.”

Hillel students organized a Monday Vigil with 400 people praying for those who were killed, injured, and held hostage.

The organization is also providing “round the clock advising and pastoral care to NU Jewish students, and has also been in touch with parents.

The Hillel leaders say they are “overwhelmed with compassion for all innocent victims.”

“We detest oppression and hate in all forms,” and it is vital to “see each other’s humanity and stand in solidarity with all those facing discrimination and inequality.”

Those who hold these values, the Hillel statement continues, “must be capable of condemning Hamas’ attack on Israel while simultaneously mourning the loss of life and supporting a peaceful resolution to this conflict.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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