Student anti-war protesters in the US dig in as faculty condemn university leadership for calling the police

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A pro-Palestinian message on a building at Emory University, the day after a student protest camp in support of Palestine ended in arrests in Atlanta, Georgia, US | Photo credit: Reuters

Students protesting the war between Israel and Hamas at US universities, some of whom clashed with police in riot gear, dug in on April 27 and vowed to continue their demonstrations, while several school faculty condemned university presidents who had called in law enforcement. remove demonstrators.

As Columbia University continues negotiations with people in a pro-Palestinian student camp on the New York school’s campus, the university’s Senate passed a resolution on April 26 establishing a task force to investigate the administration’s leadership. Last week, the Senate called in police in an attempt to clear the protest, resulting in scuffles and more than 100 arrests.

Although the university has repeatedly set and then postponed deadlines for the encampment’s removal, the school sent an email to students on the night of April 26 saying that bringing back the police “at this time” would be counterproductive would be. The negotiations tonight show ‘concrete signs of progress’. As the death toll rises in the war in Gaza, protesters across the country are demanding that schools cut financial ties with Israel and divest companies they say are enabling the conflict. Some Jewish students say the protests have turned into anti-Semitism and made them afraid to set foot on campus.

The decisions to involve law enforcement, which have led to hundreds of arrests nationwide, have prompted college faculty members in California, Georgia and Texas to initiate or condone votes of no confidence in their leadership. They are largely symbolic rebukes, without the power to impeach their presidents.

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But the tensions are increasing pressure on school officials, who are already scrambling to resolve the protests as May graduation ceremonies approach.

California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, gave protesters who had barricaded themselves in a building since April 22 until 5 p.m. April 26 the right to leave and “not be immediately arrested.” The deadline came and went. Only a few protesters left, others doubled back. After protesters rebuffed police earlier this week, the campus was closed for the rest of the semester.

In Colorado, police on April 26 searched an encampment at Denver’s Auraria Campus, home to three universities and colleges, and arrested about 40 protesters on trespassing charges.

Students representing the Columbia encampment that inspired the wave of protests across the country said April 26 that they had reached a standoff with administrators and plan to continue their protest.

After meetings on April 25 and 26, student negotiators said the university had not met their primary demand for divestment, although progress was being made toward more transparent financial disclosures.

“We will not rest until Columbia divests,” said Jonathan Ben-Menachem, a fourth-year doctoral student.

In the letter sent to Columbia students on April 26, university leadership said: “We support the conversations underway with student leaders at the encampment.” Columbia President Minouche Shafik faced significant criticism from faculty on April 26 but retained support from trustees.

A report from the executive committee of the university senate, which represents the faculty, found that Mr. Shafik and her administration “have taken many actions and decisions that have harmed Columbia University.” These included involving the police and allowing students to be arrested without consulting faculty, misrepresenting and suspending student protest groups, and hiring private investigators.

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“The faculty has completely lost confidence in President Shafik’s ability to lead this organization,” said Ege Yumusak, a philosophy professor who is part of a faculty team protecting the camp.

In response, university spokesman Ben Chang said in the evening that “we are committed to continued dialogue and appreciate the Senate’s constructive engagement in finding a path forward.” Also on April 26, Columbia student protester Khymani James responded back to comments made in January in an online video that recently gained new attention. Mr. James said in the video that “Zionists don’t deserve to live” and people should be grateful that Mr. James did not kill them.

“What I said was wrong,” Mr James said in a statement. “Every member of our community deserves to feel safe without qualification.” Mr. James, who served as a spokesman for the pro-Palestinian camp as a member of the Columbia University Apartheid Divest, was banned from campus on April 26, a Columbia spokesman said.

Protest organizers said Mr James’ comments did not reflect their values. They declined to describe the extent of Mr. James’s involvement in the demonstration.

Police clashed with protesters at Indiana University Bloomington on April 25, where 34 people were arrested; Ohio State University, where about 36 were arrested; and at the University of Connecticut, where one person was arrested.

The University of Southern California canceled its May 10 graduation ceremony on April 25, a day after more than 90 protesters were arrested on campus. The university said dozens of commencement events will still take place, including all traditional individual school ceremonies.

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Universities where faculty members have initiated or approved votes of no confidence against their presidents include Cal Poly Humboldt, University of Texas at Austin and Emory University.

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