Student protesters begin dismantling some tents as negotiations with Columbia University progress

Written by on April 24, 2024

Columbia University West Lawn on April 24, 2024. Via Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Protests on college campuses calling for the divestment of funds from Israeli military operations continued to spread on Wednesday, even as hundreds of students have been arrested.

The student protests — some of which have turned into around-the-clock encampments — have erupted throughout the nation following arrests and student removals at Columbia University. Schools including Yale University, New York University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University and more have launched protests.

More than 100 protesters were arrested on April 18 at Columbia University, according to authorities, while others were suspended and removed from campus. Over 150 people were arrested at New York University on Monday night, according to police.

The protests on campuses have been largely peaceful, according to school administrators, with some officials, including the New York Police Department, as well as protesters, blaming unaffiliated individuals for instances of violence and offensive rhetoric.

Here’s what’s happening across the country:

Harvard University

After suspending the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee, an on-campus group that has been under a spotlight, Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana defended the decision to The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, rejecting the group’s accusations that they have been “disproportionately targeted by the administration.”

Khurana insisted that the college sought to apply its policies fairly, but the Crimson said Khurana did not respond to specific questions about what prompted the suspension.

The Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee announced it will be holding a rally against the suspension on Wednesday “to let Harvard know: you can suspend PSC, but you can’t suspend the movement,” it said in a post on Instagram. The rally comes even as the university has shut down Harvard Yard through Friday.

In a letter to the Harvard administration urging it to lift the suspension on the Palestine Solidarity Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts — which said it is representing the group — raised concerns over the “validity of the probation” imposed on the group, which predicated its suspension. The ACLU is also requesting a meeting with Harvard over the group’s suspension.

“We believe that Harvard’s imposition of probation on the PSC constitutes a breach of contract, violates Harvard’s duty to provide basic fairness in disciplinary proceedings, and may otherwise be unlawful because of its negative impact on free speech and associational rights,” the ACLU said in a letter to Harvard.

“While Harvard is undoubtedly facing immense pressure, including from Congress and others, to restrain pro-Palestinian advocacy, it is incumbent upon Harvard to apply its policies fairly, consistently, and without regard to viewpoint. It is at such fraught political times that the risk to freedom of speech and rights of association is at its highest — and it is in such times that a university’s commitment to protecting such rights is most critical,” the ACLU said.

In response to ABC News’ request for a response from Harvard over statements made by the Palestine Solidarity Committee regarding its suspension and the reasoning behind it, Harvard pointed to its policies in the school’s Student Organization Resource Guide.

“Harvard College works closely with our recognized independent student organizations to ensure they are following existing policies outlined in the Student Organization Resource Guide and all College and University expectations,” Harvard said. “The College is committed to applying all policies in a content-neutral manner and in close partnership with our student organizations. All student organizations are required to participate annually in training on these policies, and any organization found in violation of the policy is subject to corrective action.”

Columbia University

Columbia University has said it is making “important progress” with representatives of the student encampment on campus calling for the divestment of college and university funds from Israeli military operations.

“We are making important progress with representatives of the student encampment on the West lawn,” Columbia University said in a statement released early Wednesday, adding that student protesters have committed to dismantling and removing a significant number of tents and that protesters will ensure that those not affiliated with Columbia will leave.

Columbia University also said that student protesters in the encampment have agreed to comply with all requirements of the New York City Fire Department and that encampments have prohibited discriminatory or harassing language.

Also, Columbia announced that its final exams will be hybrid amid tensions on campus, with the university saying “safety is our highest priority.”

“In order to address the concerns of our members in an evolving campus environment, all final course assessments (e.g., exams, presentations, projects) on the Morningside campus (with the carveouts listed at the end) must include a remote option for students who have requested support for virtual assessment,” the university said in a statement

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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