Your Source for NPR News & Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
KTEP is currently undergoing maintenance at transmitter site. We are operating on low FM power.

Three student journalists on the protests rocking their campuses

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Very early this morning at Columbia University, student protesters took over an academic building as part of a pro-Palestinian demonstration. Columbia University now says it will expel students involved.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Well, meanwhile, protests are unfolding at dozens of other universities all over the country. Most of these demonstrations have been peaceful, with protesters calling for a cease-fire and for their universities to divest from companies connected to Israel's war in Gaza. Some students and campus leaders, though, have raised concerns about safety. University administrators and police have cracked down on protests and encampments.

M L KELLY: Well, meanwhile, protests are unfolding at dozens of other universities all over the country. Most of these demonstrations have been peaceful, with protesters calling for a cease-fire and for their universities to divest from companies connected to Israel's war in Gaza. Some students and campus leaders, though, have raised concerns about safety. University administrators and police have cracked down on protests and encampments.

We are going to hear now from three student journalists covering these protests at their schools in different parts of the country. Fatimah Azeem is the outgoing editor-in-chief of The Mercury. That is the student-run paper at the University of Texas at Dallas. Liam Kelly is news editor of The Observer. That's the student paper at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. And Sarah Davis, outgoing editor-in-chief of The Emory Wheel - that's the student-run newspaper at Emory University in Atlanta. Fatimah, Liam, Sarah, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Hey there.

LIAM KELLY: Thanks, for having us.

FATIMAH AZEEM: Hi.

SARAH DAVIS: Yeah, thank you.

AZEEM: Thank you.

M L KELLY: Let me invite each of you briefly - just sum up what is happening on your campuses, where things have gone over just these past few days. I will start with you, Sarah. What's the current state of protests? How tense have things been there at Emory?

M L KELLY: Let me invite each of you briefly - just sum up what is happening on your campuses, where things have gone over just these past few days. I will start with you, Sarah. What's the current state of protests? How tense have things been there at Emory?

DAVIS: Yeah. So here at Emory, pro-Palestine protests are entering their sixth day on campus. This comes after a peak of response from police last Thursday morning. Since then, we've seen crowds of protesters ranging from a hundred to over 400 people. And this week, faculty are going to vote whether they want to vote no confidence on the university president.

M L KELLY: Yeah, over his handling of the protests. I want to get to that. Liam, how about where you are? What's the latest at Notre Dame?

M L KELLY: Yeah, over his handling of the protests. I want to get to that. Liam, how about where you are? What's the latest at Notre Dame?

L KELLY: Sure. So things really kicked into gear last week on Thursday, when the university was holding a celebration for outgoing President Father John Jenkins. And students organized a protest that evening, attempted to set up tents out on the quad twice, but were stopped by police. And no arrests have been made, and the encampments have since disappeared.

M L KELLY: Fatimah, how about you? How are things in Dallas?

M L KELLY: Fatimah, how about you? How are things in Dallas?

AZEEM: Yeah. So last week, we had several days of sit-ins on our campus, and the heads of the protests were able to secure a meeting with the president of the university. They actually rejected the meeting conditions with the president, though. So they delivered a strongly worded letter to the president, but then didn't have that formal meeting and are considering another meeting if serious discussion about divestment is communicated from the president.

M L KELLY: Got it. OK. So let me follow up and tease out a little bit more detail about each of your campuses. And Fatimah, I'll stay with you first because we've been hearing a lot about protests on campuses across Texas. And I gather part of what is in play here is an executive order that Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued last month. This is about antisemitism on college campuses. It's called GA-44. Just briefly explain what that executive order is and how it's shaping the conversation there.

M L KELLY: Got it. OK. So let me follow up and tease out a little bit more detail about each of your campuses. And Fatimah, I'll stay with you first because we've been hearing a lot about protests on campuses across Texas. And I gather part of what is in play here is an executive order that Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued last month. This is about antisemitism on college campuses. It's called GA-44. Just briefly explain what that executive order is and how it's shaping the conversation there.

AZEEM: So GA-44 was signed last month, March 27, and it obligates Texas universities to update their free-speech policy by June 25 to punish antisemitism specifically. It singles out pro-Palestine coalitions. The order also mentions specific chants that it calls antisemitic. For example, from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free - this is a chant that the order calls antisemitic and something that students could get expelled for.

M L KELLY: Liam, I understand one specific issue at Notre Dame is a rule. This is about the length of time that students are allowed to protest. How's that playing out right now?

M L KELLY: Liam, I understand one specific issue at Notre Dame is a rule. This is about the length of time that students are allowed to protest. How's that playing out right now?

L KELLY: Yes. So this is something that actually goes back to 1969, to the protests going on during the Vietnam War. And it was a move that was really praised by President Nixon at the time for kind of instilling order on college campuses. And it was essentially that, if there was a protest going on that was disrupting activity, students had 15 minutes to clear out, at which point, if they refused, they would then, you know, face punishment. All protests need to be approved beforehand, but neither that rule nor the 15-minute rule seems to have been enforced.

M L KELLY: Sarah, you mentioned some faculty at Emory are calling for a no-confidence vote on your university president, Greg Fenvez. This is over his handling of the protests. Where does that stand?

M L KELLY: Sarah, you mentioned some faculty at Emory are calling for a no-confidence vote on your university president, Greg Fenvez. This is over his handling of the protests. Where does that stand?

DAVIS: That's correct, and it's going to be an electronic vote this week. We're still waiting to hear about when the results of that will be available. But in addition to that faculty Senate vote, students in College Council voted no confidence on the president yesterday, and the Student Government Association will vote tonight on whether or not to send a referendum of no confidence.

M L KELLY: Here at NPR, we are, of course, having conversations about how to cover the war in Gaza. We're having conversations over how to cover the protests happening on your and many other campuses. I would love to hear from each of you what kind of conversations you're having in your newsrooms right now as you try, as student journalists, to cover your fellow students.

M L KELLY: Here at NPR, we are, of course, having conversations about how to cover the war in Gaza. We're having conversations over how to cover the protests happening on your and many other campuses. I would love to hear from each of you what kind of conversations you're having in your newsrooms right now as you try, as student journalists, to cover your fellow students.

AZEEM: A sense of responsibility is really what's on all of our minds on the editorial board. There's definitely more pro-Palestine sentiment on our campus, more people that are in favor of a cease-fire than those who are not. We want to make sure that we are featuring both of these voices, but, of course, to scale, to be able to accurately reflect what the student sentiment is right now.

M L KELLY: Sarah, how about you at Emory?

M L KELLY: Sarah, how about you at Emory?

DAVIS: Yeah, a focus on objectivity is definitely what's driving our newsroom. Our journalists are there from the very top of the morning to the end of the day - so long hours trying to catch everything and report in an objective manner. So I really commend all of the student journalists out there doing that on their respective campuses 'cause it's a hard job.

M L KELLY: Well, I do not envy any of you trying to do the same job I'm doing and taking final exams on top of it. That's three student journalists in the thick of covering protests on their campus. We heard from Liam Kelly, news editor of The Observer at the University of Notre Dame; Fatimah Azeem, outgoing editor-in-chief of The Mercury at the University of Texas at Dallas; and Sarah Davis, outgoing editor-in-chief of The Emory Wheel. That's Emory University's student-run newspaper. Thanks very much to all three of you for your time.

M L KELLY: Well, I do not envy any of you trying to do the same job I'm doing and taking final exams on top of it. That's three student journalists in the thick of covering protests on their campus. We heard from Liam Kelly, news editor of The Observer at the University of Notre Dame; Fatimah Azeem, outgoing editor-in-chief of The Mercury at the University of Texas at Dallas; and Sarah Davis, outgoing editor-in-chief of The Emory Wheel. That's Emory University's student-run newspaper. Thanks very much to all three of you for your time.

L KELLY: Thank you for having us.

AZEEM: Thank you.

DAVIS: 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.

Kathryn Fink
Kathryn Fink is a producer with NPR's All Things Considered.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Related Stories