College students, faculty demand amnesty for participating in anti-war protests

Maryam Alwan thought the worst was over after New York City police arrested her and other protesters on the Columbia University campus, put them on buses and detained her for hours.

But the next evening, the college junior received an email from the university. Alwan and other students were suspended after their arrest. Gaza Solidarity Camp,” a tactic colleges across the country have used to quell growing campus protests against the Israel-Hamas war.

The plight of the students has become the focus of protests, with students and a growing number of teachers demanding amnesty. At issue is whether universities and law enforcement will resolve the allegations and prevent other consequences, or whether suspensions and legal records will follow students into their adult lives.

Terms of suspensions vary from campus to campus. At Columbia and its affiliated Barnard College for Women, Alvan and dozens of others were arrested on April 18 and immediately banned from campus and classes, unable to attend in person or practice, and barred from dining halls.

There are questions about their educational future. Will they be admitted to the final exam? What about financial aid? graduate? Colombia says the results will be determined in disciplinary hearings, but Alwan says he has not been given a date.

“It feels very dystopian,” said Alwan, a comparative literature and sociology major.

What began in Columbia has turned into a nationwide conflict between students and administrators over anti-war protests and limits on free speech. In the past 10 days, hundreds of students have been arrested, suspended, placed on probation and, in rare cases, expelled from colleges including Yale University, the University of Southern California, Vanderbilt University and the University of Minnesota.

Barnard, a women's liberal arts college in Columbia, suspended more than 50 students arrested on April 18 and kicked them off campus, according to interviews with students and a report by the Columbia Spectator campus newspaper, which has obtained internal campus documents.

On Friday, Barnard announced that they had reached agreements to restore campus access to “almost everything.” The college's statement did not specify the number, but said all suspended students agreed to follow college rules and, in some cases, were placed on probation.

On the night of her arrest, Barnard student Maryam Iqbal posted a screenshot on social media site X A dean's email tells her she can return to her room with campus security before being kicked out.

“You will have 15 minutes to gather what you need,” the email said.

Protesters are arrested after being detained on the Emory University campus during a pro-Palestinian protest, Thursday, April 25, 2024, in Atlanta.  (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Protesters are arrested after being detained on the Emory University campus during a pro-Palestinian protest, Thursday, April 25, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

More than 100 Barnard and Columbia teachers held a “Rally to Support Our Students” last week to protest the student arrests and demand the suspensions be lifted.

Columbia is still pushing to remove the tent camp on the campus' main lawn, where the May 15 graduation ceremony will take place. objections.

Columbia spokesman Ben Chang said talks with the student protesters are continuing. “We have our demands; They have,” he said.

International students facing suspension fear losing their visas, said Radhika Sainath, an attorney at Palestine Law, which helped a group of Columbia students file a federal civil rights complaint against the school on Thursday. It accuses Columbia of not doing enough to address discrimination against Palestinian students.

“The level of punishment is not just cruel, it feels extremely barbaric,” Sainath said.

More than 40 students were arrested at a Yale protest last week, including senior Craig Birkhead-Morton. He is set to graduate on May 20, but says the university has yet to tell him whether his case will be submitted to a disciplinary committee. He worries that his diploma and admission to Columbia graduate school may be in jeopardy.

“The school has done their best to ignore us and not tell us what's going to happen next,” said Birkhead-Morton, a history major.

College administrators across the country are struggling Balancing freedom of speech and content. Some demonstrations included hate speech, anti-Semitic threats or support for Hamas, the group that attacked Israel on October 7, sparking a war in Gaza that has killed more than 34,000 people.

May Opening Ceremonies Add pressure to clear demonstrations. University officials say arrests and suspensions are a last resort, and they give adequate warnings before removing protest areas.

On Monday, April 22, 2024, Columbia University professors rallied in solidarity with their students' rights to hold an arrest-free protest on the Columbia University campus in New York.  (AP Photo/Stephen Jeremiah)

On Monday, April 22, 2024, Columbia University professors rallied in solidarity with their students' rights to hold an arrest-free protest on the Columbia University campus in New York. (AP Photo/Stephen Jeremiah)

A protester is arrested by University of Texas Police during a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Texas, Austin, Texas, Wednesday, April 24, 2024.  (AP via Mikala Compton/Austin American-Statesman)

A protester is arrested by University of Texas Police during a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Texas, Austin, Texas, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (AP via Mikala Compton/Austin American-Statesman)

Vanderbilt University in Tennessee is believed to be the only student walkout related to protesting the Israel-Hamas conflict, according to the Middle East Intelligence Institute. More than twenty students He occupied the office of Chancellor of the University For several hours on March 26, the university called in the police and arrested several protesters. Vanderbilt later posted three ejections, one suspension and placed 22 opponents on probation.

In an open letter to Chancellor Daniel Diermeier, more than 150 Vanderbilt professors criticized the university's crackdown as “excessive and punitive.”

One of those expelled, 19-year-old Jack Paddocks, has been allowed to attend classes while he appeals. He has been kicked out of his hostel and is living off campus.

Beddox said protesting in high school helped him get into Vanderbilt and earn a merit scholarship for activists and organizers. Her college essay was about organizing walkouts in rural Florida to protest Governor Ron DeSantis' anti-LGBTQ policies.

“Vanderbilt seemed to love it,” Beddox said. “Unfortunately, the buck stops when you start advocating for Palestinian liberation.”

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