Nina Davis/Sun Photography Editor

Nina Davis / Sun Photo Editor

April 25, 2024

Students Told to Leave by 8 p.m. or Face Academic Suspension, Admin Refuses to Guarantee Negotiations

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Students participating in a pro-Palestine encampment which began Thursday morning were told that they would see academic suspensions if they did not leave by 8 p.m. in a public discussion with Christopher Cowen, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Cornell.

Suspensions mean that students cannot receive credit for the classes they are currently enrolled in, meaning seniors can not graduate after this semester. For international students, academic suspensions can mean a loss of visas.

However, in the over-an-hour-long discussion, Cowen could not guarantee that even if demonstrators relocated to the approved location behind Day Hall, they would talk directly with administrators about the demands. Instead, Cowen emphasized that the University would not be in discussion with demonstrators in violation of University policy.

When organizer Nick Wilson ’26 asked Cowen if the University would consider the eviction of students, Cowen said “I mean, we’ll consider anything. … [But,] that is not something that is in our desire to do, which is why, we’re continuing to have outreach, why we’re continu[ing] to speak.”

Protestors said that while in compliance with University policy, they have not seen desired responses, hence why they established an encampment, to draw attention and serve as leverage in their demands.

“What we are asking for, and what we have been asking for, is responses to threats, responses to harassment, responses to doxing,” Bianca Waked grad said. “We are asking for [the] bare minimum, basically.”

Muslim and Arab students have previously spoken out about what they see as an insufficient University response to Islamophobic incidents, including threats toward hijabi women posted on Greekrank and death rape threats sent to the Students for Justice in Palestine’s Instagram account. 

Cowen said all examples of harassment that the University is aware of are investigated. But demonstrators say there was an unequal response to antisemitism and Islamophobia on campus.

In an interview with The Sun that occurred after Cowen talked to demonstrators, he said that police would be deployed to monitor the situation overnight, “to be sure that there’s protection for all students.”

When asked by The Sun if this plan means that administration is planning to have police monitor rather than remove protestors, Cowen said, “Well, it looks like they’re planning to stay overnight, doesn’t it?”

“While that’s a violation of our policy, we don’t take a position saying, ‘Because you’re violating our policy, now, we’re not going to protect you,” Cowen said.

Supporters encircled the encampment. (Nina Davis/Sun Photography Editor)

As of 7:50 p.m., CUPD presence had not dramatically increased despite nearing the 8 p.m. deadline. With CML holding an emergency rally on the Arts Quad, a human chain formed around the encampment.

The barriers of the encampment, or the “liberated zone,” shrank to only encompass the tents.

Update 4/25, 9:13 p.m.: This article has been updated to include more information about the discussion between protestors and Christopher Cowen.

Gabriel Muñoz ’26 and Marian Caballo ’26 contributed reporting.