Pro-Palestinian protests rock American universities; prompt unprecedented measures

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

ANI | Updated: 24-04-2024 10:44 IST | Created: 24-04-2024 10:44 IST
Pro-Palestinian protests rock American universities; prompt unprecedented measures
Protestors gather at the corner of Grove and College Streets (Photo/Reuters). Image Credit: ANI
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Colleges across the United States are grappling with escalating unrest as pro-Palestinian protests sweep through their campuses, prompting administrators to implement unprecedented measures to address the intensifying situation, CNN reported. Amid a seventh consecutive day of tense demonstrations, Columbia University has opted to transition most of its classes to a hybrid format on its main campus for the remainder of the semester.

President Minouche Shafik of Columbia University has come under scrutiny from both faculty and students for summoning the New York Police Department last week to disband a pro-Palestinian encampment. However, she now faces mounting pressure from legislators and donors to repeat the action in the face of ongoing protests this week, as reported by CNN. The unfolding protests, counter-protests, administrative interventions, and calls from lawmakers underline the turmoil engulfing American universities. This unrest has left some students, particularly those of Jewish descent, apprehensive for their safety, particularly as the Passover holiday unfolds.

As demonstrations continue to ripple through campuses nationwide, US House Speaker Mike Johnson is scheduled to visit Columbia University on Wednesday to meet with Jewish students and address the concerning surge of virulent antisemitism on college campuses, according to his office. At New York University, more than 130 individuals were arrested during a pro-Palestinian demonstration on Monday night, as reported by an NYPD official to CNN.

The university requested assistance from the NYPD due to "intimidating chants and several antisemitic incidents" during the protest. This resulted in a chaotic clash between protesters and police officers donning full riot gear. While the overall demonstrations remained non-violent, there were isolated incidents of bottles being hurled at law enforcement. Yale University witnessed the arrest of at least 45 individuals on Monday for trespassing after they refused to disperse from an on-campus protest, according to police reports.

Amid concerns of a "dangerous and volatile" environment, officials at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt made the decision to close the campus through Wednesday and transition to remote classes for the safety of the campus community. Protesters had barricaded themselves inside a campus building. Pro-Palestinian encampments have sprouted up at various other institutions, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Emerson College, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan. Nine individuals were arrested at the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus on Tuesday morning for establishing an encampment that violated school policies, as confirmed by the university to CNN.

Harvard University took measures to close Harvard Yard, and university officials suspended a pro-Palestine student organisation for allegedly breaching school policies, according to the student group and a knowledgeable source. Administrators at Columbia and other universities find themselves under intense pressure from multiple fronts. Pro-Palestinian protesters and their allies, sometimes including faculty members, condemn crackdowns on protests and free speech. Conversely, students, parents, donors, and lawmakers implore administrators to take decisive action to restore order.

The Columbia chapter of the American Association of University Professors is expected to propose a censure of President Shafik and other university officials for their decision last week to involve the NYPD in arresting protesters on campus, as reported by student-run news outlets Columbia Daily Spectator and Bwog. Simultaneously, ten Republican US House representatives from New York have demanded Shafik's resignation, expressing a lack of confidence in her leadership amidst the ongoing crisis.

Several lawmakers, including a contingent of Jewish representatives, visited the campus on Monday and argued that the university's inaction against the protesters may constitute a violation of Title IX, a law protecting students from discrimination and harassment based on race or nationality. Republican Representative Virginia Foxx, chairwoman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, cautioned university leaders of potential consequences if they fail to quell the protests. Organisers 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, US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona expressed deep concern about incidents of antisemitism at Columbia University and referenced the department's ongoing civil rights investigation. "Antisemitic hate on college campuses is unacceptable," Cardona affirmed. "While we can't comment on pending investigations, every student deserves to feel a sense of safety and belonging at school. Hate has no place at our schools," CNN reported. (ANI)

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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