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Statement on the Arrest of Students Demonstrating at Columbia University

Apr 22, 2024

The Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, the union representing 30,000 City University of New York employees, joins fellow unionists and academics in condemning the recent actions of Columbia University administration to suppress student protest on April 18. The Columbia University AAUP chapter has rightly objected to their administration’s conduct before Congress and toward the student encampment. Academic freedom and free speech have come under increasing attack from multiple sources, none as visible as recent congressional hearings grilling university presidents. As leaders of institutions whose very existence rests on freedom of inquiry, university administrators must defend the rights of their community members to protest, peacefully assemble, and share divergent, conflicting views. Columbia’s leaders abdicated this responsibility. They discarded principles of free speech and skirted their own governance rules to bring police onto campus for the first time in more than fifty years to arrest students who had been demonstrating peacefully. As faculty and staff who work to develop students into critical thinkers and active participants in a pluralistic democracy, PSC members have a responsibility to challenge the forces now casting student protest as adjacent or even antithetical to higher education. Student safety and freedom from harassment on campus are achievable without resorting to the forcible removal of peaceful protestors.

Our own administration has failed to stand strongly for freedom of speech and assembly at CUNY this year. They have canceled events that are critical of Israel and failed to condemn “doxing” trucks targeting our members, stating merely that they do not condone the practice. The developments at Columbia compel us to reaffirm our December 2023 statement and call again on the CUNY administration to ensure that our rights to speech, peaceful assembly, and full critical inquiry are protected in our highly diverse community.

Published: April 22, 2024

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Protest at the May 20 BoT Meeting