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HomeNewsNational NewsCollege student protesters are now facing criminal charges

College student protesters are now facing criminal charges

As protests surge across college campuses nationwide, a rising chorus of voices advocates for leniency towards student demonstrators from both universities and law enforcement.

Andrew de la Alas, a junior at Washington University in St. Louis, is among those facing severe repercussions for his involvement in campus protests. Following his arrest during an attempted encampment setup, de la Alas finds himself suspended from the university and charged with trespassing. Despite the potential impact on his academic future, de la Alas remains resolute, stating, “If, in 30 or 40 years, if I have to look back at it and think, ‘Well, I was arrested from this institution that has given me a space to do all these wonderful things and meet all these wonderful people’ — then at least I did it for a cause I believe in.”

The response from university leadership has been firm. Washington University’s chancellor, in a message to students, emphasized the institution’s commitment to preventing protests from spiraling out of control, signaling a tough stance on disruptive demonstrations. Similarly, Vanderbilt University’s chancellor defended the expulsion of students involved in a sit-in at the chancellor’s office.

However, these disciplinary actions have sparked criticism from faculty members, with over 150 professors at Vanderbilt signing an open letter denouncing the expulsions as “excessive and punitive.” Professor Terry Maroney, among the signatories, expressed concerns about the long-term implications for the affected students, arguing that current approaches fail to balance accountability with preserving students’ futures.

While expelled students have avenues for appeal within the university, the outcomes remain uncertain. At Columbia University, students have taken further action by filing a federal civil rights complaint alleging discrimination in the treatment of pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

Regarding criminal charges, the decisions lie with local prosecutors. In a notable move, Travis County Attorney Delia Garza dropped charges against 57 students arrested during a demonstration at the University of Texas, rejecting efforts to suppress peaceful protests.

With the tally of arrested protesters surpassing 1,000 nationwide, the debate surrounding the handling of student demonstrations intensifies, prompting a critical examination of the balance between maintaining order and upholding the rights of free expression on college campuses.

By: Montana Newsroom staff


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