United States

Age Of Agitation: Student Protests Surge Across U.S. Universities Over Israel's War On Gaza

In the wake of escalating tensions over Israel's war on Gaza, U.S. universities like Columbia, Yale, and New York University have become epicenters for impassioned student protests, demanding ceasefire and divestment amidst a backdrop of political scrutiny and campus disruption.

Stefan Jeremiah/AP
Protesters At Columbia University Demand Permanent Ceasefire In Gaza Photo: Stefan Jeremiah/AP

The past week has seen a significant escalation and broadening of student protests across the United States regarding the conflict in Gaza. Encampments have sprung up at various colleges such as Columbia, Yale, and New York University. Law enforcement has intervened at multiple campuses to detain protesters.

Here is everything you need to know about the protests:

What are the Demands of the Protesters?

Protesters across campuses where demonstrations have erupted are demanding a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, cessation of U.S. military support for Israel, university divestment from companies benefiting from the conflict, and amnesty for students and faculty disciplined or terminated for their protest involvement.

Who is Protesting in the Universities?

The protesters participating in the pro-Palestinian demonstrations consist of students and faculty from diverse backgrounds, including individuals of Jewish and Muslim faiths. Organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace are spearheading these protests.

The encampments have become hubs for a variety of activities, including teach-ins, interfaith prayers, and musical performances, drawing a diverse crowd.

While organizers have strongly denounced violence against pro-Israel counter-protesters, some Jewish students have expressed feeling unsafe on campus and disturbed by what they perceive as antisemitic chants.

What are the University Authorities saying?

Authorities, including school administrators and local law enforcement, have taken a tough stance against the protests.

At Columbia and its affiliated institution Barnard College, numerous students engaged in the protests have been suspended. Over 100 protesters have been detained at Columbia, prompting University President Minouche Shafik to enlist the New York Police to disband the encampment. This action occurred shortly after her testimony before a U.S. House of Representatives committee. Shafik cited the encampment's violation of regulations against unauthorized protests.

On Monday, Yale police arrested over 60 protesters, having provided them "several opportunities to leave and avoid arrest," as stated by the university.

The New York Police Department reported the arrest of 120 individuals at NYU later that same day. University officials explained their decision to request police intervention, citing the failure of protesters to disperse and their interference with the safety and security of the community.

How have the Protests impacted Regular Campus Life in these Universities?

Following the disruption, Columbia University shifted to virtual classes on Monday and subsequently announced a combination of virtual and in-person attendance options for most courses for the remainder of the semester. President Shafik emphasized in a statement her commitment to ensuring graduation ceremonies proceed without disruption.

California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, suspended in-person classes until Wednesday after students occupied an administrative building, demanding transparency regarding the school's google-sacks-28-employees-protesting-against-12-billion-deal-with-israel">connections with Israel and advocating for the severance of ties with Israeli universities.

The University of Michigan affirmed its support for free expression and peaceful protest during its early May graduation ceremonies but emphasized its intention to intervene in cases of "substantial disruption."

How are the Political Leaders responding to the Protests in the Universities?

Democratic President Joe Biden, facing criticism from protesters for providing financial support and weaponry to Israel, condemned both "antisemitic protests" and "those who don't understand what's going on with the Palestinians" during a statement on Monday.

Former President Donald Trump, the Republican contender for the 2024 election, described the campus protest scenario as "a mess" as he entered the Manhattan Court amidst his criminal trial in New York.