Message from President Robbins on April 29-30 campus demonstrations

Dear Students and Colleagues, 

This week, the University of Arizona is facing a difficult and challenging time that demands we stand up for our values and protect our community. The University celebrates and encourages free expression and diverse views, including by those who protest peacefully. But we will not tolerate violations of the law, Arizona Board of Regents policy or University of Arizona policies. 

I want to share with you what happened and what we will do moving forward.  

As we have seen over the past week, demonstrations by students and outside protestors have erupted on campuses across America, including on our Tucson campus. On Monday, protest organizers and participants gathered on the University of Arizona Mall without authorization in violation of our established campus use policies, which apply to any group seeking to use our grounds. Out of a desire to avoid escalation, University administrators engaged in dialogue with protest organizers. Rather than instructing members of law enforcement to disperse the protestors, we agreed to allow them to peacefully remain until 10:30 p.m. that evening. After multiple warnings to disperse and urging caution against violation of campus use policies in the future, the protest disbanded without incident.

Yesterday afternoon, at approximately 3 p.m., protestors gathered in the Olive Grove area of campus adjacent to the Main Gate off Park Avenue and shortly thereafter began to erect unauthorized structures in violation of campus use policies. They stole safety fencing from a University worksite, endangering others. The crowd increased in number throughout the evening, and, at the request of the University of Arizona Police Department (UAPD), support was provided by the Tucson Police Department, Pima County Sheriff’s Department, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Despite repeated, respectful and clear communication with protestors, the protestors once again violated campus use policies on Tuesday. Again, after ongoing dialogue with protest organizers, University officials began a formal warning process. Officials communicated to protesters to remove unauthorized structures and disperse by 10:30 p.m. The University and members of law enforcement sought to avoid escalation of the situation and continued to provide repeated warnings, including the possibility of arrest. Protestors ignored the warning, continued to reinforce their encampment and chanted, “If you come in, we will fight you.”

Just after 11 p.m., UAPD sent a UAlert to the campus community before members of law enforcement attempted to enter the protest encampment. At 11:20 p.m., law enforcement declared that any remaining protesters in the encampment would be arrested for unlawful assembly. 

During this time, law enforcement members were assaulted with projectiles. In addition, hundreds of protestors and counter-protestors gathered on Park Avenue, creating a volatile environment. At my direction and in consultation with the University of Arizona Office of Public Safety and UAPD, supported by partner law enforcement agencies, a plan was implemented to clear the area with an emphasis on protecting everyone. 

As officers attempted to move protestors off Park Avenue, many physically resisted and additional projectiles were once again thrown at close range at officers. Due to the dangerous actions of the protestors, law enforcement had little choice but to take significant measures, including the wearing of tactical safety gear and a minimal use of pepper balls and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd and to protect themselves and others while clearing the area. By approximately 2:30 a.m., Park Avenue and the encampment were cleared.

Ultimately, four individuals were arrested: three for criminal trespass, and one for criminal trespass and aggravated assault against a peace officer. One was an undergraduate student, another a graduate student, and two were unaffiliated with the University.

Thankfully, as of this message, we are not aware of any significant injuries to students, faculty, staff, protestors, or members of law enforcement. On behalf of the community, I want to express my sincere gratitude to the members of the UAPD, the Tucson Police Department, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety for their willingness to protect us all.

While freedom of speech and free expression are encouraged at our University, we will not allow students, faculty, staff, or outside agitators to violate the law or our policies and put anyone at risk. Beginning today and lasting at least through May 15: 

  1. We will strictly enforce our campus use policies, including a prohibition on all non-permitted shade coverings, including canopies and tents.
  2. No events or large gatherings will be allowed on campus without a permit authorized in advance. I have directed Vice President and Chief Safety Officer Steve Patterson to review all permit requests. 
  3. UAPD will take a zero-tolerance approach, acting swiftly and decisively to enforce our campus use policy, which can include issuing no warnings before taking action. 

These steps reflect my unwavering commitment to the safety of our campus and to the continued operations of the university.

While we continue to have diverse opinions and strong views on a variety of issues, we must find ways to engage safely and properly, reflecting our shared values and respect for others.


Robert C. Robbins, M.D. 

The University of Arizona ​​​​

This message was originally shared in an email to students, faculty, staff and designated campus colleagues.


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