UU Academics Condemn Violent Repression of Student Movements UUA President Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt Joins UU Seminary Presidents in Supporting Student Protest Movements

As Unitarian Universalists who live and serve at the intersections of the academy and our religious communities, our most foundational commitments rest upon values of pluralism, justice, rigorous inquiry and debate, and democratic freedom of expression for all people – including and especially for students, whose movements have so frequently represented the conscience of the nation with courage and moral clarity. In this context, we feel compelled to unequivocally condemn the rapidly escalating violent repression of pro-Palestinian, anti-war student movements on college campuses across the United States and affirm their right to peacefully protest.

In our current national climate, anti-democratic white Christian nationalist ideology is rapidly gaining traction in mainstream political discourse and legislation, as well as threatening the integrity of academic freedom. It is no coincidence that our academic institutions have been a primary target of right wing attacks as they represent one of the most powerful remaining bastions of intellectual freedom and free speech. It has been chilling to witness politicians targeting University presidents in the halls of Congress over the past six months, in parallel with crackdowns on and retaliation against academics and faculty within their own institutions. The silencing of pro-Palestinian student speakers in commencement activities and the past week’s multiple incidences of academic administrations calling upon law enforcement to tear down encampments, arrest mass numbers of students, and crush campus protests is deeply disturbing and anathema to the fundamental values of both academic freedom and our faith.

We acknowledge the heartbreaking realities of antisemitism in our culture, and believe that academic institutions have an obligation to support and protect Jewish students among their student bodies. At the same time, we believe that the disingenuous weaponization of accusations of antisemitism is currently being used to stifle free speech and is contributing to the equally threatening climate of anti-Arabism and islamophobia. Suppressing free speech and protest is not the way to address any of these issues.

As Unitarian Universalist academics, we urge the immediate removal of state and national police forces from campuses across the country; for institutions of higher learning to honor our shared commitments to freedom of speech and peaceful protest for students and academics; and for people of faith and conscience to listen deeply to the prophetic wisdom and courageous leadership of students across the country who are demanding – as they have at so many watershed moments in history – that our nation and its institutions cease their collusion with global violence, oppression, and war.

The judgment of history rarely sides against young people and the solidarity movements they build; we pray that the Academy does not ignore the very history it purports to impart upon its students.

Fellow Unitarian Universalist academics are welcome to add their name to this statement using this online form.

Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt
President, Unitarian Universalist Association

Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt
President, Starr King School for the Ministry

Dr. Elías Ortega
President, Meadville Lombard Theological School

Michael Akseven 
UU Ventura

Dr. Takiyah Amin 
Director, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Virginia Tech

Rev. Dr. Leonisa Ardizzone 
Visiting Assistant Professor, Vassar College

Rev. Dr. Jay Atkinson 
Research Scholar, Starr King School for the Ministry

Kyle Belmont 
Seminarian, Boston University School of Theology

Rev. Dr. Colin Bossen 
Senior Minister and Independent Scholar, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston

Dr. Karen Bray 
Associate Professor of Religion, Philosophy, and Social Change, Wesleyan College

Rev. Dr. Maria Cristina Vlassidis Burgoa 
Minister/Adjunct Professor, Starr King School for the Ministry/East Shore Unitarian Church

Dr. Christopher Cameron 
Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Joan Gregory, MLS 
Librarian Emeritus, University of Utah

Dr. Michael Hogue 
Professor of Theology, Ethics, and Philosophy of Religion, Meadville Lombard Theological School

Rev. Dr. Andrea Johnson 
Community Minister, First Universalist Church

Alex Kapitan 
Research scholar, Starr King School for the Ministry

Dr. Robert Kimball 
Professor emeritus, University of Louisville

Rev. Tera Landers 
Assistant Professor for the Practice of Congregational Life, Starr King School for the Ministry

Rev. Jordinn Nelson Long 
PhD Student, Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador

Natalie Malter 
PhD Candidate, Harvard University

Rev. Kevin Alan Mann 
Community Minister, First Unitarian Church of Oakland

Rev. Dr. Stephanie May 
Minister, First Church Boston

Dr. Dan McKanan 
Emerson Senior Lecturer, Harvard Divinity School

Rev. Juniper Meadows 
Minister, 2nd Unitarian Church of Omaha

Dr. Wayne Mellinger 
Independent Scholar

Dr Suzanne Miller 
Associate Professor Emerita, State University of New York

Dr. Edward Navarre 
Professor, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Rev. Dr. Rebecca Ann Parker 
President Emeritus, Starr King School for the Ministry

Miss QuianaDenae Perkins 
Starr King School for Ministry

Professor Nancy Potter 
Emeritus

Barbara Powers

Rev. Dr. Sheri Prud'homme 
Assistant Professor of Religion and Education, Starr King School for the Ministry

Rev. Dr. Meg Richardson 
Associate Professor, Starr King School for the Ministry

Rev. Darcy Roake

Dr. Denise Robb

Rev. Dr. Adam Robersmith 
Adjunct Professor, Meadville Lombard Theological School

Nora Sullivan MDiv, MSW 
Rutgers University

Rev. Bonnie Tarwater 
Minister, Church for Our Common Home

Rev. Laura Thompson 
Minister, Minnesota Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

Rev. Karen Van Fossan 
Doctoral Student, Pacific School of Religion

Rev. AJ van Tine 
Minister, First Unitarian Church of Rochester

Stephanie Vega 
Seminarian, Starr King School for Ministry

Rev. Dr. Nathan C. Walker 
President,1791 Delegates

Rev. Dr. Michelle Walsh 
Retired Lecturer, Boston University

Dr. Tisa Wenger 
Professor of American Religious History, Yale Divinity School

Dr. Sharon Welch 
Retired, former Provost, Meadville Lombard Theological School

About the Authors

Sofía Betancourt

The Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt is the tenth president of the Unitarian Universalist Association. She was elected in June 2023. As president of the Association, she is responsible for administering staff and programs that serve its more than 1,000 member congregations. ...

Rosemary Bray McNatt

The Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt became President of Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, CA on July 1, 2014. For 13 years, she was Senior Minister of The Fourth Universalist Society in the City of New York, a 175-year old Unitarian Universalist congregation on the Upper West Side of...

Elías Ortega

Dr. Elías Ortega is president of Meadville Lombard Theological School and a former member of the UUA Commission on Institutional Change.

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Fellow Unitarian Universalist academics are invited to add their name to this statement using our online form.

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Side With Love, UU emerging adults, and the UU College of Social Justice developed a statement supporting student activism on college campuses. Individuals are invited to add their name to this statement.

Read and Sign Here