College Campuses Cracking Down on Pro-Palestine Protests

The protests highlight the challenges of balancing the First Amendment rights of demonstrators with the rights of students to feel safe.

College Campuses Cracking Down on Pro-Palestine Protests

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Protests against Israel’s military actions in Palestine have sprung up on college campuses across the nation, and institutions of higher education are now suspending, expelling, or even arresting students who engage in the activities.

In New York last week, 108 Columbia University pro-Palestinian demonstrators were arrested by the NYPD for trespassing and disorderly conduct, reports ABC7NY. Two were arrested for obstruction of governmental administration and trespassing. The arrests, however, did not alleviate tension on campus, so classes are being held virtually this week, reports NBC News.

The protests highlight the challenges of balancing the First Amendment rights of demonstrators with the rights of students to feel safe on campus. In many cases, college officials say the protests have become so disruptive that the demonstrations are interfering with the education process, threatening civility on campus, and leaving some students, particularly Jewish ones, fearing for their safety.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams provided some examples of hate speech by Columbia protestors, such as one woman yelling “We are Hamas,” or groups of students chanting “We don’t want no Zionists here,” reports ABC News.

“New Yorkers have every right to express their sorrow, but that heartbreak does not give anyone the right to harass or threaten others or to physically harm someone they disagree with,” the mayor said.

Campus Officials Say Pro-Palestine Protests Violate School Policies

Most of the schools that are cracking down on the demonstrations also claim the encampments on campus that sometimes accompany the demonstrations violate university policies and instructions regarding occupying outdoor spaces.

On Monday in New Haven, Connecticut, local police arrested pro-Palestinian protestors who had set up an encampment on the campus of Yale University for three nights, reports NBC News. More than 300 people, including undergraduates, graduate students, professional students, and others were involved in the demonstrations. Forty-seven students were issued summonses.

Before the arrests at Columbia and Yale, campus officials met with student protestors in attempts to persuade them to leave campus without being arrested. At some institutions of higher education where administrators tried to engage with students, some of the demonstrators reportedly responded with aggression.

Pro-Palestinian protestors have also been suspended, expelled, or arrested at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, Vanderbilt, and Brown University.

College Campuses Revising Free Speech Policies

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, protestors interrupted the University of Michigan’s annual honors convocation with banners that said, “Free Palestine.” The demonstrators also shouted “You are funding genocide!” reports the New York Times. As a result, the ceremony was cut short.

In response to the event disruption, UM President Santa J. Ono announced the school would draft a new policy to redefine what behaviors could be punished.

Some schools, such as the University of Southern California (USC), are citing safety and security concerns as the reason for shutting down events or cancelling speeches.

In Los Angeles, hundreds marched through the University of Southern California (USC) campus Thursday to protest the school’s decision to ban its valedictorian from speaking during the May 10 commencement ceremony. Asna Tabassum has expressed pro-Palestinian views, including some that have led to accusations of antisemitism.

So far, no demonstrators at USC have been suspended, expelled, or arrested.

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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