Nationwide protests bring demands to university campuses

ACTIONS SPEAK. Tents on the Northrop Mall at the University of Minnesota on May 5. Sam Konstan (SPA ‘21), a U of M student, said, How much [the tent encampment] affects somebody’s day-to-day life is a combination of a choice and their schedule.“ However, he added, the discussions around [the protests] were a lot harder to avoid.” (Photo Reprinted with Permission from Winter Keefer, MinnPost)
ACTIONS SPEAK. Tents on the Northrop Mall at the University of Minnesota on May 5. Sam Konstan (SPA ‘21), a U of M student, said, “How much [the tent encampment] affects somebody’s day-to-day life is a combination of a choice and their schedule.“ However, he added, “the discussions around [the protests] were a lot harder to avoid.” (Photo Reprinted with Permission from Winter Keefer, MinnPost)

The right to protest, historically, is an essential component of democracy. Campus protests on the Israel-Hamas war have occurred nationwide, and as a result, over 2000 students have been arrested. At Columbia University in New York, commencement was canceled and the school transitioned into hybrid learning.

Columbia University offers a clear portrait of what the protest arc looked like this spring. Around Apr. 20, students set up an encampment on the east lawn entrance of campus, named the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment Community.” It filled with hundreds of students by the end of the week. University President Minouche Shafik approved the first police involvement after protesters ignored her warnings to disband their encampment.

Encampments across the nation popped up on campuses across the nation, and after the refusal to cooperate, a number of student protesters were arrested and suspended.

The Columbia University protest escalated to illegal action after entry into Hamilton Hall Apr. 30, and a second police raid was issued. US history teacher Andrea Moerer believes protesters should be responsible for their actions.

“There may be consequences and that is part of protesting — those who break the rules should expect repercussions,” she said. “It concerns me that university officials seem to think that protests should not occur or are surprised when they do.”

It concerns me that university officials seem to think that protests should not occur or are surprised when they do.

— US History teacher Andrea Moerer

Columbia University was also a campus with pro-Israel protests. The week of Apr. 15, hundreds of pro-Israel protesters stood together in front of the main lawn, waving the flag of Israel and demanding the rescue of hostages in Gaza.

At the University of Minnesota on the morning of Apr. 23, eight students and one staff member were arrested at a Pro-Palestinian encampment on school grounds.

Sam Konstan (SPA ‘21), a U of M student, was not especially affected by the protests. “It’d be hard not to notice [the protests],” he said. “How much it affects somebody’s day-to-day life is a combination of a choice and their schedule.”

The protests never significantly impacted Konstan’s ability as a student but “the discussions around [the protests] were a lot harder to avoid.”

A second encampment was set up at the U of M on Apr. 29 on Northrop Lawn, despite the police dismantlement of the encampment a week earlier. It included hundreds of students and faculty in support of the people of Gaza. The organizers voluntarily took down the encampment after administrators agreed to transparency demands.

This story was originally published in the May 2024 print issue of The Rubicon. It has been published online as new encampments are being set up at Columbia University.

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