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Home » Clarion » 2024 » June 2024 » Union says: Drop the CCNY charges

Union says: Drop the CCNY charges

Protecting students’ rights

The PSC protested the mass arrests of student protesters at City College on April 30 and have demanded that charges be dropped.

The union said in a statement: “The Professional Staff Congress calls on the CUNY chancellor to urge the district attorney to drop the charges against the CUNY students and employees arrested the night of April 30 during the NYPD sweep of the CCNY Gaza Solidarity Encampment. Such demonstrations for Palestinian solidarity and divestment from Israel have now reached 80 campuses nationwide, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, and administrators have responded in many different ways. The CUNY administration should make every effort to prevent the students and employees who were taken into custody on April 30 from carrying criminal records into their futures and observe their due process rights under internal CUNY policies.”

The protest at City College was part of a nationwide movement at college campuses where students have spoken out about the ongoing humanitarian and human rights crisis in Gaza.


Nearly 300 students and other activists were arrested at City College and Columbia University alone that night. Police have violently broken up protest encampments at college campuses around the country, prompting a national discussion about threats to academic freedom and the right to free speech at American universities. PSC officers and staff were on hand at City College to witness the excessive force used against CUNY students and their supporters.

PSC President James Davis contacted the CUNY administration to insist that the arrested students be treated with leniency, union sources said.

PSC First Vice President Andrea Vásquez said, “Those who commit civil disobedience understand the risks they take. But authorities, including CCNY and CUNY leadership, have the discretion to understand the context in which protest anchored in moral values happens. In this context, no CUNY student or faculty member should be subject to the criminal justice system.”

The PSC’s objection to the charges comes after months of union advocacy for academic freedom at CUNY since the outbreak of violence in the Middle East last October. The union has fought against college administrations’ canceling of events about the Middle East political crisis at Lehman, Hunter and Baruch Colleges (See stories on “Labor is fighting for academic freedom” and “Will the admin protect us?“).


One of the PSC’s national affiliates, the American Association of University Professors, said in a statement: “We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the heavy-handed, militaristic response to student activism that we are seeing across the country. At this critical moment, too many cowardly university leaders are responding to largely peaceful, outdoor protests by inviting law enforcement in riot gear to campus and condoning violent arrests. These administrators are failing in their duty to their institutions, their faculty, their students and their central obligation to our democratic society. When university administrators limit when, where and how free speech may be exercised, and require advance applications for permission of such expression, they effectively gut the right itself. To insist that harsh discipline and violent repression are necessary to combat hate on a college campus is a pretext to suppress protest and silence speech.”

Vásquez wrote in an op-ed in the Amsterdam News: “Unfortunately, we are witnessing a diminishing of the right to peaceful and respectful assembly at CUNY as events are canceled, parts of campuses shut down, entrances barred, and more. All members of our college communities should find the curtailment of free speech, the undermining of peaceful protest by our students, and attacks on academic freedom in the classroom unacceptable.”

Published: May 19, 2024

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