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Universities Struggle as Pro-Palestinian Demonstrations Grow

At New York University, police moved in Monday evening to arrest protesting students, ending a standoff with the school’s administration.

At Yale, police placed protesters’ wrists in restraints Monday morning and escorted them to campus shuttles to receive summonses for trespassing.

Columbia kept its classroom doors closed Monday, moving classes online and urging students to stay home.

Harvard Yard was closed to the public. Nearby, on campuses like Tufts and Emerson, administrators considered how to handle encampments that looked a lot like the one that police dismantled in Columbia last week — and that protesters quickly resurrected. And on the West Coast, a new camp has emerged at the University of California at Berkeley.

Less than a week after the arrest of more than 100 protesters at Columbia, administrators at some of the country’s most influential universities were struggling, and largely failing, to calm conflict-torn campuses in Gaza and Israel.

During Monday’s unrest, which coincided with the start of Passover, protesters called on their universities to become less financially tied to Israel and its arms suppliers. Many Jewish students were again distressed by certain demonstrations and chants that veered toward anti-Semitism, and again feared for their safety. Some faculty members denounced the crackdown on peaceful protests and warned that academia’s mission to promote open debate appeared under threat. Alumni and donors were angry.

And from Congress, calls for the resignation of Columbia President Nemat Shafik have been made by some of the same lawmakers that Dr. Shafik tried to pacify last week with words and tactics that inflamed his own campus.

The menu of options available to administrators managing protests appears to be dwindling rapidly. It is almost certain that protests, in one form or another, will last on some campuses until the end of the academic year, and even then, graduation ceremonies could be bitterly contested gatherings.

For now, while the largest protests are limited to a handful of campuses, administrators’ approaches sometimes seem to change by the hour.

“I know there is a lot of debate about whether or not we should use police on campus, and I am happy to participate in those discussions,” Dr. Shafik said in a message to the students and employees early Monday, four days after the officers suited up. in riot gear helped clear part of the Columbia campus.

“But I know that better compliance with our rules and effective enforcement mechanisms would avoid having to rely on someone else to keep our community safe,” she added. “We should be able to do it ourselves.”

Protesters have demonstrated with varying intensity since Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7. But this series of unrest began to gain momentum last Wednesday, after Columbia students set up an encampment, just as Dr. Shafik was preparing to testify before Congress.

At that hearing in Washington, before a Republican-led House committee, she pledged to more aggressively punish unauthorized protests on the private university’s campus and, the next day, she asked police of New York to clean up the camp. In addition to the more than 100 people arrested, Columbia suspended numerous students. Many Columbia professors, students and alumni have expressed fears that the university is suppressing free debate, a cornerstone of the American college experience.

This tougher approach helped spark more protests outside the gates of Columbia, where Jewish students reported being targeted with anti-Semitic taunts and described feeling unsafe walking to and from their campus .

The growing uproar in Upper Manhattan helped fuel protests on other campuses.

“We are all a united front,” said Malak Afaneh, a law student protesting at the University of California, Berkeley. “This was inspired by the students at Columbia who, in my opinion, are the heart of the student movement whose courage and solidarity with Palestine has truly inspired us all. »

The events at Columbia also reverberated at Yale, where students rallied for days at Beinecke Plaza in New Haven, Connecticut, to demand that the university divest from its weapons manufacturers.

Yale President Peter Salovey said Monday that university leaders spent “many hours” talking with protesters, with one offer that included an audience with the administrator who oversees Yale’s committee on responsibility of investors. But university officials decided Sunday evening that the talks were proving fruitless, and Dr. Salovey said they were troubled by reports “that the campus environment had become increasingly difficult.”

Authorities arrested 60 people Monday morning, including 47 students, Dr. Salovey said. The university said the decision to make the arrests was made with “the safety and security of the entire Yale community in mind and to provide access to university facilities to all members of our community.”

In the hours following the arrests, hundreds of protesters blocked a crucial intersection in New Haven.

“We demand that Yale divest!” » went a chant.

“Free Palestine!” went another.

Far from being intimidated by police, protesters suggested that Beinecke Plaza’s response had emboldened them.

“It’s pretty appalling that the response to students exercising their free speech and engaging in peaceful protests on campus grounds – which is supposed to be our community, our campus – is Yale’s response by sending in cops and by having 50 students arrested,” said Chisato Kimura, a Yale law student.

The scene was less contentious in Massachusetts, where Harvard officials had decided to limit opportunities for protests by closing Harvard Yard, the 25-acre core of the Cambridge campus, until Friday. Students were warned that they could face disciplinary action at the university if they, for example, erected tents without permission or blocked entrances to buildings.

On Monday, Harvard’s Palestine Solidarity Committee said on social media that the university had suspended him. The National Students for Justice in Palestine, an informal confederation of academic groups, said it believed the decision was “clearly intended to prevent students from replicating the solidarity encampments” emerging across the United States. Harvard said in a statement that it is “committed to implementing all policies in a content-neutral manner.”

Elsewhere in the Boston area, protesters had set up encampments at Emerson College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University. But these demonstrations seem, for the moment, more modest than those at Yale and New York, where demonstrators built an encampment in front of NYU’s Stern School of Business.

NYU officials tolerated the protest for hours, but signaled Monday evening that their patience was running out. Police gathered near the protest site as demonstrators ignored the 4 p.m. deadline to leave. As nightfall approached, sirens sounded and officers, wearing helmets and zip ties, gathered. Prisoner transport vans waited nearby.

“Students, students, hold on!” The protesters roared. “NYU, back off!” »

Very quickly, the police went to the demonstration.

“Today’s events did not need to lead to this outcome,” John Beckman, a university spokesman, said in a statement. But, he added, some protesters, who may not have been from NYU, broke through the barriers and refused to leave. For security reasons, the university said it requested police assistance.

At Columbia, Dr. Shafik ordered Monday classes to be moved online “to ease resentment.”

She did not immediately detail how the university would proceed in the coming days, saying only that Columbia officials would “continue discussions with student protesters and identify actions we can take as a community to enable us to peacefully end the mandate.”

Some students and faculty members said support for Dr. Shafik was eroding as the university Senate braced for the possibility of a vote this week to censure the president. Supporters of censorship complained that Dr. Shafik was sacrificing academic freedom to appease critics.

But Dr Shafik was lambasted on Monday by the very people she was accused of appeasing when at least 10 members of the US House of Representatives demanded her resignation.

“Over the past few days, anarchy has engulfed Columbia University,” Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican and one of Dr. Shafik’s chief interrogators, wrote last week, along with other lawmakers. “As the leader of this institution, one of your primary goals, morally and under the law, is to ensure a safe learning environment for students. In every respect, you have failed in this obligation.

A university spokesperson said Dr. Shafik worked to deescalate conflicts and “worked across campus with members of the faculty, administration and board of trustees, as well as with state, city and community leaders, and appreciated their support. »

Amid the acrimony and with dozens of green, blue and yellow tents filling the Columbia encampment, parts of the campus sometimes took on an eerie, surreal calm on a glorious spring day.

The uneasiness has never been so far away, even with many Jewish students absent from campus for Passover.

“When Jewish students are forced to watch others burn Israeli flags, call for the bombing of Tel Aviv, call for October 7 to happen again and again, it creates an unacceptable level of fear that cannot be tolerated.” , said Democratic Representative Daniel Goldman. of New York, said before the Robert K. Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life at Columbia.

At that point, another symbol of the crisis ravaging Colombia, Mr. Kraft, an alumnus and owner of the New England Patriots, launched his own broadside and suggested suspending his donations.

“I am no longer confident that Columbia can protect its students and staff,” he wrote in a statement, “and I am not comfortable supporting the university until corrective action is taken. taken”.

The report was provided by Kaja Andric, Olivia Bensimon, Troy Closson, Maria Cramer, Liset Cruz, Jacey Fortin, Amanda Holpuch, Eliza Fawcett, Sarah Maslin, Sarah Mervosh, Coral Murphy, Sharon Otterman, Wesley Parnell, Jeremy W. Peters, Karla Marie Sanford, Stephanie Saul And Derrick Bryson Taylor.

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jack colman

With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class.After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim.Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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