Columbia University calls for inquiry into leadership as student protests sweep 40 campuses (2024)

At least 40 pro-Palestine protest camps have arisen across US campuses following Columbia University’s example earlier this month, as the New York school’s senate called for an investigation into its leadership, the New York Times reported.

While many remain provocative though peaceful, demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and divestment by their institutions from companies with ties to Israel, hundreds of students and outside protesters have been arrested, and there have been some fierce clashes with police.

Chaotic and thrilling: Columbia’s radio station is live from the student protestsRead more

At least 100 more students were arrested overnight into Friday, mostly at Emerson College in Boston, while two dozen were taken into custody at Ohio State University.

At Columbia University, a proposal to censure university president Minouche Shafik fell short, but a resolution calling for an investigation passed by a vote of 62-14 on Friday, according to the New York Times. Shafik has been scrutinized since a decision last week to summon New York police to the campus and authorize them to dismantle an encampment, resulting in the arrest of more than 100 student protesters.

After a two-hour meeting on Friday, the university’s senate approved a resolution that Shafik’s administration had undermined academic freedom and disregarded the privacy and due process rights of students and faculty members by calling in the police and shutting down the protest.

“The decision ... has raised serious concerns about the administration’s respect for shared governance and transparency in the university decision-making process,” it said.

The senate, composed mostly of faculty members and other staff plus a few students, did not name Shafik in its resolution.

There was no immediate response to the resolution from Shafik, who is a member of the senate but did not attend Friday’s meeting. Columbia spokesperson Ben Chang said the administration shared the same goal as the senate – to restore calm to the campus – and was committed to “an ongoing dialogue”.

Separately, Columbia student protesters said that after meetings Thursday and Friday, the university hadn’t met their primary demand for divestment, although they had made progress on a push for more transparent financial disclosures.

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

One member of the Columbia encampment, Khymani James, apologized for saying in a January social media video that “Zionists don’t deserve to live”.

“What I said was wrong,” James said in a statement on Friday. “Every member of our community deserves to feel safe without qualification.”

A university spokesman said James had been banned from campus and faced disciplinary action.

Meanwhile, at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, where police allegedly used rubber bullets and teargas on protesters, Thursday’s escalation led to the arrest of Noëlle McAfee, chair of the philosophy department. Before the arrest, she had posted a video showing the Atlanta police department walking into the encampment.

“I had come by to make sure the university president had not called in the APD, but he did,” she posted. “Then I witnessed a young person being viciously pummeled by the cops. After demanding that they stop and refusing to step away, I was arrested.”

Also at Emory, economics professor Caroline Fohlin was detained by police. Authorities dragged Fohlin to the ground and handcuffed her after she shouted: “What are you doing?” to an officer making another arrest.

In Columbus, Ohio, videos show state troopers clashing with protesters gathering on campus on Thursday night. The police ordered protesters to vacate, and those who refused to leave were arrested and charged with criminal trespass, said university spokesperson Benjamin Johnson, citing rules prohibiting overnight events.

Students for Justice in Palestine at Ohio State University, a student-led group, had warned protesters of the risk of arrest on Thursday in a demonstration that gathered hundreds of students. The university’s student-run newspaper, the Lantern, reported that about 30 protesters were arrested overnight.

“Shame on you OSU, you will not silence us,” state representative Munira Yasin Abdullahi said in an Instagram post.

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Police with shields approached the crowd of about 250 at about 10pm on Thursday. Students were forming a protective circle around the encampment before officials took the protesters to the arrest vans, according to the Lantern. The crowd continued to wave flags and chant “let them pray”.

On Tuesday, two Ohio State students had been arrested in a separate on-campus protest. One of the protesters arrested was unaffiliated with the university, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Meanwhile, police forcibly cleared a tent encampment at Emerson College, in Boston, with officers arresting 108 people, according to the Berkeley Beacon student newspaper. Videos showed police beating protesters and dragging students to the ground.

The number of campus protest encampments have grown to more than 40 across the nation, NBC’s Today reported on Friday morning.

Emerson College assembled an encampment on Sunday to express support for the student arrests at Columbia University, the campus at the center of the student-led protests, and demand a ceasefire in Gaza.

Protesters were arrested for disturbing the peace, according to the Berkeley Beacon, and it is not currently confirmed how many of the 108 arrested were students at Emerson College.

Ohio State and Emerson were just some of the college campuses with arrests on Thursday amid a wave of protests in solidarity for Palestine, following the example of Columbia University, in New York City, where protesters started pitching protest tents in the middle of campus last week. Uproar ensued from both pro-demonstration and anti-demonstration voices after the university president called in the New York police department to clear the camp, leading to arrests and a fresh encampment springing up.

Encampments in solidarity with Columbia have since emerged at Northwestern University in Cook county, Illinois; Cornell University in Ithaca, New York; George Washington University in Washington DC; Princeton University in New Jersey; the City College of New York; and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Students at Morehouse College in Georgia were also taken into custody on Thursday, and there were violent clashes and arrests on Wednesday at the University of Southern California and the University of Texas at Austin.

The University of Southern California canceled its main commencement ceremony, a blow to students who began their degrees in the long isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic, and marches and protest camps have also occurred at UC Berkeley and Cal Poly Humboldt in northern California.

Tensions also rose at the University of California, Los Angeles, where pro-Israel counterprotesters and pro-Palestinian groups shouted at one another at the school’s encampment.

Columbia University calls for inquiry into leadership as student protests sweep 40 campuses (2024)
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