Cornell law professor criticizes Northwestern deal with anti-Israel protesters

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Northwestern University near Chicago has rewarded anti-Israel protesters by striking a heavily criticized deal reached between the two groups that has now come under congressional scrutiny, critics have said. 

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the chairwoman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, sent a letter to Northwestern University leaders on Friday, demanding answers on an agreement reached with anti-Israel agitators to end an illegal encampment on campus. 

Under the agreement, the university said it will cover the full cost of attendance for five Palestinian students who attend the school for the duration of their undergraduate careers. The agreement also provides for immediate temporary space for [Middle East and North Africa] MENA/Muslim students and a house for MENA/Muslim students that is conducive to community building as soon as practically possible, or sometime after 2026.


Anti-Israel signs seen at an encampment at Northwestern University

Students and residents camp outside Northwestern University during a pro-Palestinian protest, expressing solidarity with Palestinians with banners in Evanston, Ill., outside Chicago. (Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu via Getty Images)

“This is basically paying off hostage takers,” said Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson, who is also the president of the Legal Insurrection Foundation and founder of the Equal Protection Project, which filed a federal civil rights complaint against Northwestern over the deal. “Who the hostages were was a piece of property they had no right to be on.”

“Whether you should punish them for doing that or not, you shouldn’t reward them,” Jacobson told Fox News Digital. “Rewarding behavior which the university says is a breach of their rules simply encourages people to do it again.”

In her letter, Foxx said her committee has opened an investigation into the university’s response to antisemitism and its failure to protect Jewish students. She is demanding the school provide documents and communications concerning the encampment and alleged antisemitic incidents that have taken place at Northwestern since Oct. 7, in addition to other materials. 


Virginia Foxx insert over Northwestern University Gaza camp

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, inset, R-N.C., chairperson of the House Education and the Workforce. Banners hang from a fence outside Northwestern University during an anti-Israel protest. (Getty Images)

“I have grave concerns regarding Northwestern’s persistent failure in addressing antisemitism,” Foxx writes. 

In a statement to Fox News Digital, Northwestern said the university is “committed to combating antisemitism on campus and ensuring the safety of all Northwestern students. President (Michael) Schill looks forward to discussing the steps Northwestern has taken with the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.”

Jacobson said he couldn’t comment on Foxx’s letter, because he had not yet read it. The agreement between Northwestern and the protesters was reached earlier this week and promoted several members of the university’s advisory committee to resign their posts.

“It’s one thing to make concessions,” said Jacobson. “It’s very different to say ‘We are now going to break the law as a concession to you, and we are not going to discriminate against other students as a concession to you.’”

Northwestern University pro-Palestinian protest

Students and residents camp outside Northwestern University during an anti-Israel protest in Evanston, Ill., near Chicago, on April 27. (Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Despite calls from Jewish groups for Schill to step down, the problem won’t be addressed until schools take a firm stance on disruptive and illegal behavior, said Jacobson. At Cornell University, President Martha E. Pollack announced this week that she would retire on June 30 amid anti-Israel protests at the New York campus. 


“A president resigning or leaving doesn’t really change the underlying problem, which is there’s an extremely toxic culture on some of these campuses and some of these directed towards Israel and also towards Jews,” Jacobson said. “And that toxic culture will not change if you simply change a placeholder.”

At Cornell, Jacobson has called for the school to do away with its DEI (Diversity, equity, and inclusion) programs. 

“Having the entire campus focus on race as the central factor in society is, one, not going to improve society and two, is simply going to set students against each other,” he said. “And that’s what we’ve seen develop.”

Fox News Digital’s Chris Pandolfo contributed to this report. 

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