Washington University professor Michael Allen suspended for connection to Gaza campus encampment


Michael Allen, a senior lecturer at Washington University in St. Louis, was recently suspended after his arrest by campus police on April 27 in Tisch Park, not far from the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. That evening, over 100 students, faculty members, and activists were arrested in a protest for Palestine, including Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein

The evening of April 27, Allen was arrested by campus police while documenting police brutality against Dr. Steve Tamari, a 65-year-old Palestinian-American history professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). Dr. Tamari later shared in a statement that he was “body slammed and crushed” that night by campus police officers before he was placed in critical condition at a nearby hospital. His doctor said that Dr. Tamari was “lucky to be alive” after being “brutally beaten” by police officers.

“This is a school where administrators condemned police brutality against protesters during the 2014 Ferguson uprising,” an architecture student who opted to stay anonymous told AN. “To see the administration bring police onto campus and brutalize people, and how the university advertises itself as a progressive institution, it’s disgusting.”

Protests at Washington University in St. Louis
Protests at Washington University in St. Louis have been happening for months. (Courtesy Michael Allen)

Allen, a faculty member at Washington University since 2014 and executive director of the National Building Arts Center, was filming the police’s handling of Dr. Tamari with his cellphone before he himself was arrested. Allen was subsequently placed on paid administrative leave on April 29, two days after his arrest, by Provost Beverly Wendland. A spokesperson for Provost Wendland told AN that she cannot comment on personnel matters.

Today, a tall riot fence circumambulates the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, as well as several other parts of Washington University’s campus, to thwart future protests. “The fences, the suspensions, all of this is meant to distract us from Palestine,” the architecture student said. “It’s so important that what’s happening in Palestine today stays at the center of our conversations.”

More students shared their frustration over the new defensive architecture in a letter penned for administrators: As students of the built environment, we find the university’s erection of a fence surrounding Tisch Park extremely unsettling and concerning. This is the university’s border with the city of St. Louis and its communities—the Danforth Campus’ front door—and it frankly feels horrible seeing the administration put up walls to ‘protect’ itself against community members without a university ID card.

riot fence at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
Riot fence (Courtesy Michael Allen)

The arrests and subsequent suspensions at Washington University mark one of the first instances where architecture professors in the U.S. have faced punitive consequences by university officials in connection to ongoing campus protests for Gaza since October 2023. “For those of us who study the system, sadly none of this is surprising,” Allen told AN

The eventful evening of April 27 came after a tense day at Washington University between protesters, administrators, and campus police. Earlier that afternoon, approximately 350 students and faculty occupied Tisch Park to protest Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza. Many students were calling upon the university to divest from Boeing, which sells weapons to the Israeli military, akin to recent activities at Columbia, Harvard, Yale, CUNY, Cal Poly, and other schools. After, campus police officers were sent to vacate the encampment. 

police in Tisch Park
Campus police arrived at Tisch Park on April 27 early afternoon (Courtesy Michael Allen)

Later, campus police officers entered the school of architecture’s Weil Hall, sited not far from Tisch Park, to clear the building. “Police walked into the building with zip ties,” Allen said. “It was appalling. They ordered students working on their final projects, who weren’t even taking place in the encampment, to exit the building in a single-file line. It was outright fascist. That image of the police lining up students will always haunt me.”

At approximately 7:00 p.m. Allen was monitoring the situation in the architecture school, making sure that students were safe, and then went back to Tisch Park. Allen maintains that he “never stepped foot in the encampment” and that he was “just documenting” the event to protect his students from harm. Shortly after, Allen saw Dr. Tamari standing near the encampment. 

Dr. Tamari was observing the Gaza encampment at Tisch Park with students and faculty before he was dragged by campus police into a van loaned from the St. Louis police department. Dr. Tamari ultimately suffered nine broken ribs, a fractured wrist, and his lung was nearly punctured while he was being dragged into the police van. Dr. Tamari and his wife, Sandra, later shared a statement on social media expressing their outrage, which can be read here.

video footage screenshot of Dr. Tamari attack
Dr. Steve Tamari before he was dragged on the ground (Screenshot via X)

At about 7:30 p.m on April 27 Allen was recording Dr. Tamari’s arrest with his phone when he himself was arrested and placed in the back of a van. Approximately 100 of the 350 protesters were arrested by nightfall. Allen was then transported to Washington University’s Sumers Welcome Center, where campus police officers were holding arrestees. Allen was placed near politician Jill Stein, who had also been arrested that day.

Allen and dozens of other arrestees were then transported again to a county jail. Allen remained in jail for about an hour, and was released at 11:15 p.m. After his arrest, Allen was forbidden from contacting students and faculty members; and from entering Washington University’s campus. But no charges have been brought against him yet. 

Two faculty members were subsequently directed by Sam Fox Dean Carmon Colangelo to finish Allen’s semester for him, and oversee his studio final reviews; and Allen was asked by Provost Wendland and Dean Colangelo to submit final grades. Many students have since boycotted their final reviews to support Allen, and a petition has since been circulated calling upon the administration to reverse his suspension. 

A tall riot fence surrounds the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
A tall riot fence surrounds the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. (Courtesy Michael Allen)

“We find the treatment of Professor Allen and other faculty and students who have been suspended and barred from campus unacceptable and entirely against the values of an institution that values and respects diverse points of view,” the student petition reviewed by AN stated. “We wholly oppose his suspension and refuse to engage in any in-person final review for his course without his presence.”

AN reached out to Dean Carmon Colangelo and Acting Director Linda Samuels for comment.





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