Pro-Palestinian protests rock US universities; take unprecedented measures quickly

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
6 Min Read

Colleges across the United States are grappling with growing unrest as pro-Palestinian protests spread across their campuses, leading administrators to implement unprecedented measures to deal with the escalating situation, CNN reports.

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Amid tense protests for the seventh consecutive day, Columbia University has opted to convert most of its classes on its main campus to a hybrid format for the remainder of the semester.

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik has come under scrutiny from both faculty and students for calling on the New York Police Department last week to dismantle a pro-Palestinian encampment. However, as CNN reports, he now faces increasing pressure from legislators and donors to repeat the action in the wake of ongoing protests this week.

The unfolding protests, counter-protests, administrative intervention and calls from lawmakers underscore the turmoil sweeping American universities. The unrest has left some students, particularly those of Jewish origin, fearing for their safety, especially during the Passover holidays.

As demonstrations continue on campuses nationwide, U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson is scheduled to visit Columbia University on Wednesday to meet with Jewish students and address rising anti-Semitism on college campuses, according to his office.

At New York University, more than 130 people were arrested during a pro-Palestine demonstration on Monday night, an NYPD official told CNN.

The university requested assistance from the NYPD due to “intimidating chants and multiple anti-Semitic incidents” during the protest. This resulted in a chaotic clash between protesters and police officers wearing full riot gear. While the overall demonstration remained non-violent, there were sporadic incidents of bottles being thrown at law enforcement.

At least 45 people were arrested for trespassing at Yale University on Monday after they refused to disperse from a protest on campus, according to police reports.

Amid concerns of a “dangerous and unstable” environment, officials at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt decided to close the campus as of Wednesday and move to remote classes for the safety of the campus community. The protesters had locked themselves inside a building on the campus.

Pro-Palestinian camps have sprung up at several other institutions, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Emerson College, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan. Nine people were arrested for setting up a camp that violated school policies Tuesday morning at the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus, the university confirmed to CNN.

According to the student group and a knowledgeable source, Harvard University took steps to close Harvard Yard and university officials suspended a pro-Palestinian student organization for allegedly violating school policies.

Administrators at Columbia and other universities find themselves under immense pressure from multiple fronts. Pro-Palestinian protesters and their allies, sometimes including faculty members, condemn the protests and the crackdown on free speech. In contrast, students, parents, donors, and lawmakers urge administrators to take decisive action to restore order.

President Shafiq and other university officials have been condemned by the Columbia chapter of the American Association of University Professors for last week's decision to involve the NYPD in arresting protesters on campus, as reported by the student-run news outlet Columbia Daily Spectator and Expected to make a proposal. Blog.

Additionally, ten Republican US House representatives from New York have demanded Shafiq's resignation, expressing lack of confidence in his leadership amid the ongoing crisis.

Several lawmakers, including a group of Jewish representatives, visited the campus on Monday and argued that the university's inaction against protesters could violate Title IX, the law protecting students from discrimination and harassment based on race or nationality. . Republican Representative Virginia Foxx, chairwoman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, warned university leaders of possible consequences if they failed to quell the protests.

Organizers have announced plans for pro-Palestinian protesters to gather at the gates of Columbia University on Tuesday afternoon.

Taking to X, formerly known as Twitter, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona expressed deep concern over incidents of anti-Semitism at Columbia University and referenced the department's ongoing civil rights investigation.

Cardona affirmed, “Anti-Semitic hatred on college campuses is unacceptable.” “Although we cannot comment on pending investigations, every student deserves to feel a sense of safety and belonging at school. Hate has no place in our schools,” CNN reported.

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