College protesters want to keep their arrests and suspensions away from them

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Maryam Alwan figured the worst was over after New York City police in riot gear arrested her and other protesters on the Columbia University campus, loaded them onto buses and held them in custody for hours.
But the next evening, the college junior received an email from the university.
The students’ plight has become a central part of protests, with students and a growing number of faculty demanding their amnesty.
Terms of the suspensions vary from campus to campus.
A statement from the college did not specify the number but said all students who had their suspensions lifted have agreed to follow college rules and, in some cases, were put on probation.
More than 100 Barnard and Columbia faculty staged a “Rally to Support Our Students” last week condemning the student arrests and demanding suspensions be lifted.
University officials say arrests and suspensions are a last resort, and that they give ample warnings beforehand to clear protest areas.
Vanderbilt University in Tennessee has issued what are believed to be the only student expulsions related to protesting the Israel-Hamas conflict, according to the Institute for Middle Eastern Understanding.


Upon being arrested along with other protestors on the Columbia University campus by riot-clad New York City police, Maryam Alwan assumed the worst had passed after they were placed on buses and detained for several hours.

The junior in college, however, got an email from the university the following evening. Colleges around the nation have been using the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” as a means of quelling campus protests against the Israel-Hamas war, and Alwan and other students were being suspended as a result of their arrests.

Students’ suffering has taken center stage in protests, as more and more faculty members and students call for their amnesty. Whether suspensions and criminal records follow students into adulthood, or if colleges and law enforcement drop the charges and impose no further penalties, is the question at hand.

Campus-to-campus variations exist in the suspension periods. Alwan and scores of others were arrested on April 18 at Columbia and its associated women’s college Barnard College. They were immediately expelled from the campus and classes, prohibited from attending in person or virtually, and prohibited from the dining halls.

Their academic futures are still up for debate. Alwan claims she has not been given a date for the disciplinary hearings, despite Columbia’s statement that decisions regarding graduation and financial aid will be made at these sessions. Will they be permitted to take final exams?

According to Alwan, a comparative literature and society major, “this feels very dystopian.”.

This anti-war demonstration and the boundaries of free speech have escalated into a national student-administrator spat over what began at Columbia. Hundreds of students have been arrested, suspended, placed on probation, and, in rare instances, expelled from universities in the last ten days, including Yale University, the University of Southern California, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Minnesota.

According to interviews with students and reporting from the Columbia Spectator campus newspaper, which obtained internal campus documents, Barnard, a women’s liberal arts college at Columbia, suspended more than 50 students who were arrested on April 18 and expelled them from campus housing.

Barnard declared on Friday that agreements had been reached to reinstate “nearly all” of them to campus access. The amount was not disclosed by the college in a statement, but it did state that all of the students whose suspensions were revoked agreed to abide by the rules and that some of them had been placed on probation.

But Maryam Iqbal, a student at Barnard, shared a screenshot of a dean’s email on social media the night of the arrests, letting her know that she could leave her room and return it for a short while with campus security.

According to the email, you would have fifteen minutes to gather any necessary items.

At last week’s “Rally to Support Our Students,” over a hundred faculty members from Barnard and Columbia University denounced the student arrests and called for the suspensions to be revoked.

Columbia continues to press for the removal of the tent camp on the main campus lawn, where graduation will take place on May 15. According to the students’ demands, the school should sever its connections with companies associated with Israel and grant amnesty to any students or faculty members who have been arrested or disciplined in relation to the protests.

According to Ben Chang, a representative for Columbia, discussions with the student demonstrators are still ongoing. He stated, “They have their demands; we have ours.”.

Radhika Sainath, an attorney with Palestine Legal, which assisted a group of Columbia students in filing a federal civil rights complaint against the school on Thursday, stated that fear of losing their visas is an additional concern for international students facing suspension. The allegation is that Columbia is not taking sufficient action to combat prejudice towards Palestinian students.

“It feels like over-the-top callousness—the level of punishment is not even draconian,” Sainath remarked.

Over forty students, including senior Craig Birckhead-Morton, were taken into custody during a Yale demonstration last week. Though he says the university has not yet informed him whether his case will be brought before a disciplinary panel, he is scheduled to graduate on May 20. He fears that he won’t get a diploma and that getting into Columbia Graduate School might not be possible.

History major Birckhead-Morton said, “The school has done its best to ignore us and not tell us what happens next.”.

The challenge of striking a balance between inclusivity and free speech has been faced by college administrators nationwide. Hate speech, threats against Jews, and support for Hamas—the organization that attacked Israel on October—have all been present at some demonstrations. 7, launching the Gaza War, which has claimed over 34,000 lives.

Commencement exercises might put more pressure on unambiguous protests. Officials from the university assert that warnings are given in advance to clear protest areas and that suspensions and arrests are only used as a last resort.

According to the Institute for Middle Eastern Understanding, Vanderbilt University in Tennessee has issued what are thought to be the only student expulsions related to protesting the Israel-Hamas conflict. On March 26, more than two dozen students took over the chancellor’s office for several hours, causing the university to call the police and make several protestor arrests. Vanderbilt proceeded to suspend one student, expel three others, and place twenty-two demonstrators on probation.

More than 150 Vanderbilt academics denounced the university’s crackdown as “excessive and punitive” in an open letter to Chancellor Daniel Diermeier. “.

Jack Petocz, a 19-year-old who was expelled, is permitted to continue attending classes while he files an appeal. After his dorm was forced to close, he moved off campus.

According to Petocz, his high school protests were decisive in his acceptance to Vanderbilt and his receipt of a merit scholarship intended for activists and organizers. In his college essay, he discussed planning walkouts against Gov. Policies against LGBT people by Ron DeSantis.

According to Petocz, Vanderbilt “seemed to love that.”. Sadly, once you begin to promote Palestinian liberation, the game is over.

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