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The latest on college campuses as protests continue

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

It's been an intense week on college campuses across the U.S. Students at schools like Columbia University in New York, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Ohio State University have been protesting in solidarity with Gaza. Hundreds have been arrested. NPR's Jasmine Garsd has been covering the protests, and she joins us from New York. Hi, Jasmine.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Yesterday police went into the campuses of the University of Texas Austin and the University of Southern California. What's the situation at Columbia in New York, where you are?

GARSD: It's very quiet on campus right now, a really different picture from a week ago, when there were over a hundred arrests. And those arrests caused uproar. Columbia President Minouche Shafik has come under fire for allowing NYPD on campus. She's defended her decision, but she's admitted it was ineffective. The camps popped right back up. And she's also said the university is refocusing its efforts towards talking and negotiating with the students. However, in the days that followed, we saw schools like the University of Texas Austin and the University of Southern California also send the police in.

SHAPIRO: We hear some police sirens behind you right now, but I assume it is not for that. There are also groups...

GARSD: No.

SHAPIRO: ...Saying Columbia needs to be harder on the protesters and put an end to the encampments. What are they saying?

GARSD: Yeah. I was at a press conference by Columbia Barnard Hillel in which they were calling for the university to take action. Here's student Noa Fay, who said the protests are antisemitic, and she feels outraged and called for the students at the encampments to be arrested.

NOA FAY: No one is above the law. Arrest the students on Butler Lawn, and discipline those that continue to call for the death of my friends and family.

GARSD: And I have to say I've been here almost every day, and I haven't heard that, although a student leader of the Columbia protests has come under fire for social media videos he made prior to the protests that did threaten violence to Zionists. He has since recanted.

SHAPIRO: You have spoken to students participating in the encampment at Columbia. It's been a week since they set up camp. What are you hearing?

GARSD: What I'm hearing from pro-Palestinian student activists is that they won't leave until their demands are met. A reminder - the demands are that the campus sell stocks in certain companies in Israel. And, you know, I had a conversation with one student, a pro-Palestinian activist who was arrested and suspended last week. She's not allowed to go back on campus. Her name is Sarah Borus. She herself is Jewish, and she says she understands where certain Jewish student groups are coming from.

SARAH BORUS: I think that that fear comes from a very real place. The Holocaust was not that long ago. But militarism, state violence, nationalism - that is not what is going to keep us safe. It is standing together with other oppressed people.

GARSD: She says her parents are absolutely furious that NYPD came into campus and arrested her.

SHAPIRO: As we've mentioned, there are similar protests around the country. How do they continue to spread?

GARSD: Yeah. Similar protests with similar demands have popped up around campuses nationwide. And, you know, it's a really unprecedented moment in that some of the universities that are seeing protests are not the ones you usually associate with vocal activism. People might associate schools like UC Berkeley with this type of protest but maybe not so much Cal Poly or University of Southern California - so very unprecedented.

SHAPIRO: This is graduation season. So what does all of this mean for commencement plans?

GARSD: Well, graduation ceremonies and commencement speeches are right around the corner, so the University of Southern California has canceled its main commencement. And what we've heard from Columbia University is that the goal is to have the campus area cleared by its commencement on May 14.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Jasmine Garsd. Thank you.

GARSD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.