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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

Columbia protests.jpg

College campuses across the country engulfed by anti-Israel protests

Amid national chaos, relatively quiet protests occur on campus.

Over the past week, protests against Israel’s conduct in the war against Hamas in Gaza have engulfed college campuses across the country.

While protests have been common across campuses since October, when Israel launched its invasion of Gaza following Hamas’ initial attack on October 7, the protests increased in magnitude last week when students at Columbia University camped out in tents and refused to leave. The New York Police Department was called Thursday, leading to the arrest of over 100 demonstrators, many of them students. Columbia decided to hold classes virtually this week, in response to anti-semitic sentiments expressed at the protests.

Protests then ensued at New York University, where 133 demonstrators were arrested Monday, and Yale University, where 60 protestors were arrested. Similar demonstrations have been made in the midwest nearer to Notre Dame at the University of Michigan and the University of Minnesota.

Although pro-Palestine demonstrations have taken place at Notre Dame this semester, there have been no major protests at the scale of other universities and no encampments have been set up. 

When asked about the policy of the Notre Dame Police Department towards protests of this nature, University spokesperson Sue Ryan referred The Observer to the section on demonstrations in the University’s du Lac standards of conduct, which require that protests be “peaceful and orderly,” and must be registered in advance with the Vice President for Campus Safety and University of Operations. The standards also require that the demonstrations be organized by students and adhere to “time, place and manner” restrictions so as not to disrupt campus activities.

Although University policy may prohibit demonstrations of the kind organized at Columbia and Yale, some students and organizations expressed their support for the demonstrations at these universities.

Fadwa Kamari, a graduate student and member of the club Student Voices for Palestine, argued protests should be allowed in the name of open debate. 

“Academic institutions are supposed to be a place where diverse opinions and actions for change are born,” she said. “Instead, we’ve seen institutions all over the country strip students of their freedom of expression and take extreme measures to suppress anyone who speaks out against them.”

Kamari praised students at Columbia and Yale for “reclaiming their academic spaces… from a hostile, repressive environment.”

Occupation Free ND, a pro-Palestine alumni group, also affirmed its support for the protests in a statement to The Observer. 

“We support all students fighting against the moral bankruptcy of our universities, just as students in 1968 did against the Vietnam War and the students of 1988 did against South African Apartheid,” the statement read.

Occupation Free ND specifically criticized the University’s association with aerospace company Lockheed Martin, which the organization claims makes the University complicit in what it called a “genocide.“ The organization argued the University is focusing too much on profit.

“Universities like Columbia, Yale, Notre Dame, etc. pretend to be centers of learning, wisdom and freedom, but the reality is these institutions have multi-billion dollar endowments and leaders who make seven-figures,” they said.

Francesca Freeman, a graduate student, also called the situation in Gaza a “genocide” and praised students for protesting against it.

“As Palestinian liberation activists at Notre Dame, we stand in solidarity with student activists across the country against the genocide in Gaza,” she said.

The protests at college campuses have attracted national attention, with President Biden condemning “the anti-semitic protests” while also criticizing “those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians.”

Former President Trump similarly condemned the protestors, but put the blame for their actions on Biden.

“You have very radical people wanting to rip the colleges down, the universities down, and that’s a shame,” Trump said. “It’s really on Biden. He’s got the wrong signal, he’s got the wrong tone, he’s got the wrong words.”

When asked if they agreed with Trump’s statements, the Notre Dame College Republicans club declined to comment.