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Updates on Emory campus events

The following messages have been shared with the Emory community or with members of the media.

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Message from President Fenves: Commencement Update

May 6, 2024

Dear Emory Community,

I have been firm in my commitment that Emory will celebrate our graduating students at Commencement. While that commitment has not changed, concerns about safety and security require us to adjust the plans.

Emory will relocate Commencement activities to the Gas South District in Duluth, Georgia, an indoor complex that includes the Gas South Arena and the Gas South Convention Center. This change in venue impacts Emory’s university-wide Commencement celebration as well as the diploma ceremonies for all nine schools, including Oxford College. Details of the revised Commencement plans, including those for related events and receptions, have been added to the Commencement website. This site will be updated as additional details become available.

Please know that this decision was not taken lightly. It was made in close consultation with the Emory Police Department, security advisors, and other agencies — each of which advised against holding Commencement events on our campuses.

I know that this news will be deeply disappointing to many of you. The FAQs included on the Commencement site provide answers to some of the many questions related to this change. 

I want to end by congratulating the Emory Class of 2024 — a class like no other. For many of you, the pandemic interrupted your high school graduations, and you began your Emory experience online. Next Monday, we will celebrate all that you have accomplished since then. You will have your moment together, in person, alongside the people who matter to you the most. Each of your names will be read aloud, and each of you will be conferred an Emory degree. We will applaud your dedication, your accomplishments, and your resilience. You will become graduates of Emory University, ready to enter a world that needs your talents, your wisdom, and your leadership.


Gregory L. Fenves

Campus Update: May 1 Events

May 2, 2024

Expression-related events occurred in multiple locations on Emory’s Atlanta campus on Wednesday, May 1, including Asbury Circle, Cannon Chapel, the Oxford Road building and the Quad.

On Wednesday afternoon, protestors entered Emory’s Oxford Road building and disrupted its operations. Due to these disruptions, Emory closed the building and Open Expression Observers asked all individuals to leave. The protestors complied. When the protestors exited the building, several dozen of them remained just outside the building, opened three small tents and continued their protest. Open Expression Observers requested that they remove the tents and depart. When the protestors did not comply, Emory Police Department officers repeated the request, at which time the protestors complied. The protesters then moved to the Emory Quad, where the protest continued for several hours before concluding.

During the protest at the Oxford Road building, some individuals watching the event were asked to leave the area because of safety concerns. Later that evening, a group of counter-protesters also arrived on the Quad. More information on how counter-protesting is managed by Open Expression Observers can be found here

In an unrelated incident, at 3:35 p.m., Emory University notified our community about a police emergency at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church and instructed people to avoid the area. A suspicious package was found near the church and Glenn School. Emory Police requested assistance from DeKalb Police to investigate. Law enforcement officers determined the package did not pose a threat and Emory issued an all-clear at 4:03 p.m.

Recent Arrest and Campus Safety

April 30, 2024

Updated May 3, 2024, to reflect new information

This update shares information about two incidents that occurred on Sunday as well as the steps Emory is taking to address community safety.

On Sunday, April 28, the Emory Police Department (EPD) issued criminal trespass warnings to six individuals, four of whom were suspected of committing recent acts of vandalism on campus. This information was released by EPD that day, and EPD confirmed that none of these individuals are affiliated with Emory.

Separately, EPD shared this evening the following statement regarding an arrest later that day:

The Emory Police Department Tuesday announced the arrest of a convicted felon who crossed state lines to come to campus.

EPD arrested Derek Zika, from Statesville, North Carolina, on the Emory Quad Sunday afternoon. He was carrying knives and an Oleoresin Capsicum spray (pepper spray) canister.

He was charged with criminal trespass, obstructing a law enforcement officer, possession of a weapon in a school safety zone, criminal trespass and crossing state lines with weapons, intoxicants or drugs. He was transported to the Dekalb County Jail.

Police obtained a search warrant and inspected Zika’s vehicle Monday evening. Inside the vehicle police found an axe, a hatchet and two knives in a bag with survival gear.

Emory Police Chief Burt Buchtinec thanks community members who alerted the department to the individual being on campus.

We understand that this information comes at a sensitive time. It is our responsibility to communicate the facts that impact community safety as they become available.

We have in place or are taking the following measures to further enhance the safety of our community:

  • We have added more lighting and additional cameras covering key campus locations. These cameras are monitored 24/7 by the Emory Police Department.
  • We have increased officer patrols, the visibility of uniformed officers on campus, and other security measures. These efforts are especially focused on the Quad and are extended to the broader campus.
  • We have limited building entry to individuals with card access.
  • We are working with individual students who have needs related to exams and other academic accommodations.

Emory is continuously working to take appropriate measures to keep our community safe. We depend on a strong collaboration between EPD and other law enforcement agencies. We support their efforts to assist in keeping Emory safe.

We know that potential adverse impacts to Emory Commencement are a shared concern for many members of our community. We look forward to celebrating the Class of 2024 at Commencement and will share details of any necessary changes in future communications.

If you need immediate police assistance, call 911. As always, if you need help on campus, the following resources are available 24/7:

Please remember that Emory has support resources available to assist you.

Message from President Fenves

April 29, 2024

Dear Emory Community,

Over the past week, Emory has experienced unprecedented protests and disruptions. We are not alone. Nationwide, universities are grappling with events that have deeply shaken our respective communities. I have heard from many of you, and I want you to know that I am listening. I understand your concerns, your fears, your frustrations, and your outrage. As we enter the final week of the academic year, I am focused on protecting our campuses, supporting peaceful expression for all members of our community, and finding ways to foster healing and rebuild trust. 

I would like to use this message to update you on last Thursday’s events. 

Based on the information we had early Thursday morning, we determined that the individuals who constructed the encampment on our Quad were not members of our community. It is clear to us now that this information was not fully accurate, and I apologize for that mischaracterization. My goal was to remove a growing encampment, as allowing such an encampment would have been highly disruptive, affecting everything from classes and exams to our ability to hold Commencement. I remain firm that such encampments cannot be permitted at Emory. 

Let me be clear: I am devastated that members of our community were caught up in law enforcement activity enforcing the removal of the encampment. The videos of these interactions are deeply distressing. I take Thursday’s events very seriously and we are launching a thorough review of them so that we can develop recommendations to improve how we keep our community safe. This review will include how Emory engages external law enforcement agencies.

I am committed to supporting our students and faculty who wish to express their views peacefully. We will not tolerate conduct that undermines these efforts. I know that many members of our community are focused on their classes, research, exams, and upcoming graduation. We are working hard to keep our campus as free from disruption as possible so that these important core functions of the university can carry forward at the highest level.


Gregory L. Fenves

Message from the Emory Police Department

April 28, 2024

Updated May 3, 2024, to reflect new information

Emory police officers on Sunday issued criminal trespass warnings to six individuals, four of whom were suspected in last night’s criminal activity on campus. None of the individuals are affiliated with Emory. They were all escorted off campus property. 

On Saturday, a group of individuals disrupted peaceful protests and vandalized several campus structures, including spray-painting hateful messages on Convocation Hall.  

The police investigation into this incident continues and further charges may be pending. Chief Burt Buchtinec thanks the community members who alerted police with descriptions of the individuals. 

Message from President Fenves

April 28, 2024

Dear Emory Community,

On Friday and again yesterday, hundreds of students and faculty assembled peacefully on our Atlanta campus for student-led protests. Our open expression team worked closely with the student organizers of the events to facilitate their peaceful expression, and that partnership worked as it is supposed to.

That changed last night.

Late in the evening, as students and faculty were assembled on the Quad, several individuals rapidly approached Convocation Hall and spray-painted hateful messages on the building’s exterior walls. Several other structures were also vandalized. These individuals brazenly disrupted what had been a peaceful protest. Many on the Quad, including those participating in the protest, condemned the action as the work of individuals from outside our community. Last night’s incidents follow similar vandalism that occurred on the Quad last Monday. The Emory Police Department is coordinating with other law enforcement agencies to investigate these crimes.

With the events of this week, it has become clear: Emory is navigating a divide between individuals who wish to express themselves peacefully and those who seek to use our campus as a platform to promote discord. Incidents like this—perpetrated by those who aim to disrupt and divide us—must be rejected and condemned at Emory.

This is a distinctly emotional and challenging time. We continue to gather the facts so that we can update you on the steps we are taking to address this week’s events. As we engage in important conversations about how we move forward, we must not allow hatred to overwhelm the many peaceful and thoughtful voices at Emory.

I am dedicated to keeping this campus safe as community members finish classes, continue their research, sit for exams, and prepare for Commencement.


Gregory L. Fenves

Message from President Fenves

April 26, 2024 

Dear Emory Community,

I’m writing to follow up on yesterday’s messages regarding the protests at Emory.

The encampment that was set up yesterday in the early morning on the Quad in front of the Commencement stage was quickly cleared by law enforcement and a number of arrests were made. Following these events, students gathered outside Convocation Hall to organize a protest. Throughout the afternoon, Emory students and community members assembled peacefully on the Quad. The afternoon events were monitored by open expression observers and Emory Police Department (EPD) officers were on site to provide support as needed.

Early yesterday evening, a large group of protestors left the Quad and gathered outside the Candler School of Theology. Some protestors pinned police officers against the building’s glass doors, threw objects at them, and attempted to gain access to the building. These actions against officers prompted an increased law enforcement presence on campus. Protestors then returned to the Quad and eventually dispersed. No further arrests were made.

I am saddened by what took place at Emory yesterday. To watch these highly organized, outside protestors arrive on campus in vans, construct an encampment, and overtake the Quad just days after it was vandalized with hateful and threatening messages was deeply disturbing. I also know that some of the videos are shocking, and I am horrified that members of our community had to experience and witness such interactions. The fact that members of our community were arrested upsets me even more and is something that I take very seriously. To the best of our ability, we are working with law enforcement agencies to assist detained community members and expedite their release.

Yesterday’s events echo similar incidents that have taken place at universities nationwide. I understand that the ongoing effects of the war in Israel and Gaza, including the humanitarian crisis engulfing the Palestinian people and the hostage crisis involving Israeli civilians, continue to stir painful emotions. At the same time, the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center engenders fierce debate across our city.

As Emory community members continue to express themselves and protest, we are committed to working with students and faculty, open expression observers, and the EPD to facilitate their peaceful expression. However, we will not tolerate vandalism, violence, or any attempt to disrupt our campus through the construction of encampments. These actions are counter to our values, and they disrupt the core purpose of the university and its educational and research missions.  

Today, once again, Emory staff from Facilities Management have returned to the Quad to repair the damage caused by a group of individuals who did not have this community’s best interests in mind. Dedicated staff members will then resume the work of preparing our facilities as we welcome thousands of families, parents, and guests to campus for our Commencement ceremonies.

As we approach finals, the end of the academic year, and Commencement, I recognize that there is disagreement on difficult issues and there will continue to be debate. But I also know we can express our views and beliefs without diminishing the experiences and accomplishments of others. That will be our challenge in the days ahead and I know it is one that this community will rise to meet.


Gregory L. Fenves

Message from VP for Public Safety Cheryl Elliott

April 25, 2024

Dear Emory Community,

I'm writing to share further information about the events that took place on our Atlanta campus earlier today and the actions taken by the Emory Police Department (EPD).

At 7:41 a.m. a few dozen protestors arrived on campus. When they arrived, these individuals ignored and pushed past EPD officers stationed on the Quad and set up tents in an area where equipment and materials were staged for Commencement. Based on their actions and refusal to confirm their connection to Emory, EPD made the assessment that these individuals were not Emory community members. Officers with the Atlanta Police Department and Georgia State Patrol were then called to provide further assistance. Around this time, several social media accounts announced a protest and occupation of the Quad and issued a public call for non-Emory community members to join them. 

EPD issued multiple warnings at different intervals advising individuals in the encampment that they were trespassing on private property and instructing them to leave. When those requests were ignored, Atlanta Police and Georgia State Patrol officers assisted EPD with dispersing the crowd and taking individuals into custody for criminal trespass.

During this process and the subsequent confrontations, objects were thrown at police officers. To our knowledge at this time, an individual attacked a non-EPD officer and appears to have been tased. Video of this incident has been widely shared on social media. Based on current information, this individual is not a member of the Emory community. Due to the direct assault of officers, law enforcement released chemical irritants into the ground to assist with crowd control.

As of this message, we have been notified that 28 individuals have been arrested, including 20 Emory community members, some of whom have been released. We are working with responding agencies to expedite the release of any Emory community members who remain in custody. 

Our primary goal today was clearing the Quad of a disruptive encampment while holding individuals accountable to the law.


Cheryl Elliott
Vice President for Public Safety

Message from President Fenves

April 25, 2024

Dear Emory Community,

Early this morning, several dozen protestors entered our Atlanta campus and set up an encampment on the Quad. These individuals are largely not affiliated with Emory and were disrupting the university as our students finish classes and prepare for finals. This is completely unacceptable. In response to this encampment, the Emory Police Department notified these individuals that they were trespassing. When they refused to leave, law enforcement cleared the Quad.

I ask each of you to use judgment and show compassion for everyone with whom you share this community. It is essential that we preserve an atmosphere of respect on our campuses at all times.

We will provide additional updates moving forward.


Gregory L. Fenves

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