New School Faculty Set Up an Encampment in Solidarity With Student Protesters

Less than a week after pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested at The New School’s campus, a faculty-led encampment has been set up in solidarity of their efforts.

The majority of last week’s protesters, who were organized by The New School’s Students for Justice in Palestine (TNS SJP), were released from police custody without any charges. They were said to have been first warned by police officers that they could leave the campus before any arrests were made.

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Like TNS SJP, the faculty protesters are calling on The New School to divest from companies that had ties to Israel. Organizers spread the word about the new encampment, which they said is composed of autonomous faculty, Wednesday afternoon in a press release.

A media request sent to the group inquiring about the number of people who are part of the encampment was unreturned.

Asked for comment Wednesday, representatives from The New School shared a statement to the school community from interim president Donna Shalala that highlighted how criminal charges against the student protesters would not be pursued and that every effort would be made to ensure conduct reviews for the student protesters would be expedited. She also said a historical view of The New School’s divestments would be shared. Shalala said that the university supports the NewSWU’s right to organize and has repeatedly told them that they can do so now. “We maintain our unshakable commitment to free speed and peaceful demonstration,” Shalala said.

The faculty-led encampment is said to be located in The New School’s University Center, which is where TNS SJP had previously established one. There also had been another group of student protesters in the lobby of a residence hall on the lower Fifth Avenue campus.

Organizers for the faculty-based protest said that the action taken to set up a new encampment followed “the mass arrests and violence that took place last week across New York City campuses, when university leadership called in the NYPD to sweep and shutter the solidarity encampments.” In their press material, they cited the more than 2,200 arrests of protesters that have been made in recent weeks on college campuses. That included the 282 protesters at Columbia University and at the City University of New York that were detained by police, as well as 56 other student protesters at The New School and New York University.

NYPD deputy commissioner of operations Kaz Daughtry posted a detailed account of the NYPD’s handling of The New School situation, including a video of police officers on the scene and an image of The New School’s request to the NYPD seeking assistance and highlighting why.

As protests, and in some instances police action, continue at other campuses nationwide like the University of Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, there were more arrests of protesters in New York City earlier this week. Forty-six protesters were taken into police custody at the Fashion Institute of Technology Tuesday afternoon.

Supporters of the the newly established faculty-led initiative at The New School, which is being called the Refaat Alareer Faculty Solidarity Encampment, alleged that Shalala’s decision to clear student protesters last week “destroyed what many experienced to be a site of learning political commitment and powerful solidarity with the Palestinian people facing genocide.”

In a statement released after the student protesters’ arrests, Shalala said that some of the student protesters had blocked the entrance to Kerrey Hall, which houses 600 residents. By her account, after hours of negotiations with representatives of the student protesters, “they would not budge.” She also claimed that three offers for a meeting between some of the student protesters and representatives from the school’s investment committee was declined. She also claimed that student protesters had “escalated the situation and set up a second encampment.”

The faculty-led initiative is calling on The New School’s investment committee and The New School’s board of trustees “to vote immediately to divest from companies that benefit directly or indirectly from the genocide of the occupation of Palestine.” TNS SJP claimed that the university is invested in 65 funds that includes 13 companies with ties to Israel including Google, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard and Boeing among others.

The faculty-led encampment’s organizers said the group also is “standing with students across the city and the country” and demand that all charges against arrestees be dropped, all disciplinary actions facing participants in student-led encampments be revoked, and that police be “permanently kept off campus.”

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