Gaza Campus Protests Through the Eyes Of Student Journalists | Crooked Media
Sign up for Vote Save America 2024: Organize or Else, find your team, and get ready to win. Sign up for Vote Save America 2024: Organize or Else, find your team, and get ready to win.
April 23, 2024
What A Day
Gaza Campus Protests Through the Eyes Of Student Journalists

In This Episode

  • Police arrested hundreds of college students in the last week amid intensifying campus protests over the Israel-Gaza war. While demonstrations have been ongoing at some universities since the start of the war, they reached new levels after Columbia University’s president called in the New York Police Department to clear an encampment on campus shortly after testifying in front of Congress. We talk to two student journalists about what’s happening on their campuses: Esha Karam, a junior at Columbia University and managing editor of the ‘Columbia Daily Spectator,’ and Aarya Mukherjee, a freshman news reporter at University of California, Berkeley’s ‘The Daily Californian.’
  • And in headlines: Former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker detailed the tabloid’s ‘catch and kill’ strategy during former President Donald Trump’s criminal hush-money trial, the Supreme Court hears arguments today in a case that could decide whether states have to provide emergency abortion care to pregnant patients, and Pennsylvania Congresswoman Summer Lee edged out a more moderate challenger in the state’s Democratic primary.


Show Notes:





Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, April 24th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What a Day. And I know what I do not want for Mother’s Day this year. The gold plated pendant necklace sold by Melania Trump. It looks kind of like a three leaf clover, and it’s inscribed Love and Gratitude and it is $245. 


Priyanka Aribindi: You don’t want to wear it around your neck every day?


Josie Duffy Rice: I don’t need the necklace. 


Priyanka Aribindi: A three leaf clover. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Three leaf. [laugh]


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s like, do you understand the point? 


Priyanka Aribindi: No, no they don’t. [music break]


Josie Duffy Rice: On today’s show, the Supreme Court will hear a case about abortion access in Idaho. Plus, the Justice Department has reached a settlement for the victims of disgraced sports physician Larry Nassar. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses across the country continue to grow. Students have been holding protests on campuses since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas last October, but they intensified last week when students at Columbia University created an encampment as their president testified before Congress. In the days since, students at over a dozen schools across the country like NYU, Yale, and Berkeley have created encampments of their own. These students are not only calling for an end to the war, but for their universities to cut financial ties with Israel and other entities that profit from this conflict. And in the past few days, we’ve seen hundreds of these students arrested for their participation, and members of the public have become involved in the university protests. While this has gone on, Jewish students on these campuses have reported experiencing anti-Semitism, harassment and fear for their safety amid these protests. Obviously, that is never okay, and these institutions are facing immense pressure, including from members of Congress who don’t think that these schools are doing enough to protect their Jewish students, while others believe that the schools have been too aggressive against student protesters and violated their rights to free expression. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s been an incredibly contentious moment. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And it mirrors some of the complications that we’re feeling outside of universities as well. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. It’s an incredibly, incredibly charged time. And many of these schools have closed off their campuses to people without student IDs in the past few days as this has intensified. So we wanted to go straight to the source on this one and speak with student journalists who are there on these campuses every day, covering the demonstrations to get a sense of what it is like to be there right now. I spoke earlier with Esha Karam, a junior at Columbia University and the managing editor of the Columbia Spectator. And Aarya Mukherjee, a freshman news reporter at Berkeley’s The Daily Californian. I started by asking Esha about what things have been like on Columbia’s campus since the arrests. 


Esha Karam: Since then, I think there has been heightened intensity on campus. As a student who is living here, is eating here, is hanging out with friends here and studying here. It’s been intense emotionally to see the national media sort of flock to campus. Politicians from the House of Representatives, senators. We’ve seen, you know, news helicopters circling. We’ve seen NYPD drones in the academic realm as well as, you know, classes have transitioned to a hybrid model. Most of my classes are are fully on zoom now as we approach, you know, finals upcoming and the end of the year. We also have, you know, our commencement ceremonies coming up in the next few weeks. It’s a very intense time on campus right now. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And Aarya, let’s talk about you in Berkeley, protesters there set up an encampment in solidarity with protesters in Columbia, but protests have been ongoing on campus, I believe, since the start of the war. So tell us a little bit about what it’s like on your campus. 


Aarya Mukherjee: Yeah. Protests um are not new to Berkeley. I mean, it’s it’s kind of in the history of the university. But since the start of the war, there has been protests almost every day, at least in the past few months, definitely every day. There are multiple groups on campus, ranging from graduate students, law students, undergraduates who support Palestine or Jewish Voice for Peace. There are also groups on the other side as well, um students supporting Israel, Tikva. And the thing is, it’s caused um, a kind of a charged atmosphere, of course. The famous Sather Gate um there’s been a protest almost every day for the past few months where pro-Palestinian students um have been setting up, kind of blocking the gate. There’s been there’s been this whole discourse about the way that they can protest within the gate. It caused a counter-protest by Jewish students a few months ago. Um. And then, of course, there was the February 26th incident, in which pro-Palestinian students prevented the speech of a former IDF soldier Ran Bar-Yoshafat, um resulting in the injury of some students. And it was characterized by many media organizations as like anti-Semitic mob. And of course, similar to what’s been happening in Columbia that caused the House Committee on Education of the workforce, chaired by Virginia Fox, to send a letter to UC Berkeley investigating its response to antisemitism and the Department of Education to launch a similar investigation. I mean, so when you walk through Sproul Plaza, it’s impossible to miss, but it’s become so routine in everyday life that most students have almost become apathetic to it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. I want to ask a little bit more about students and and all of that shortly. But first, you know, alongside reports about these demonstrations, we’ve been seeing a lot of reports of anti-Semitism at them or near them, hearing from Jewish students who fear violence and hate on campus. What are you hearing from students and Jewish students in particular, on campus right now? Esha, let’s start with you. 


Esha Karam: I think that’s been one of the things that the national media particularly has focused on right now. We’ve heard a lot of comments from federal leaders, government officials on particularly the anti-Semitism at Columbia. And on our end at The Spectator, we’ve reported on those incidents. You know all of them have happened, particularly since Wednesday, some that happened, some instances of anti-Semitic chants, things that were said at certain protesters or counterprotesters, rather. And particularly, we’ve noticed that many of them happened off campus at the protests that have gathered around Columbia’s gates. We’ve also seen a wide range of perspectives on the issue of safety in particular. One of the Orthodox rabbis here at Columbia encouraged students, Jewish students to go home and leave campus, particularly as Passover um was happening. But at the same time, one of the leaders of Hillel released a statement, Columbia Barnard Hillel, saying that, you know, Jewish students should stay on campus. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Aarya, what about you? What have you heard from students and Jewish students on your campus? 


Aarya Mukherjee: It’s difficult to answer that question because different people will tell you different things. I mean, when I spoke to some of the students inside the Zellerbach hall, that that was the February 26th incident where the crowd tried to push inside the hall. I mean, they were scared. They were terrified. Um. But then on the other side of it, there were students in the crowd that I talked to that were Jewish themselves. I honestly believe that some of the the fear kind of stems from perhaps a political leaning, um between some of these students because Jewish Voice for Peace. I know, I know a lot of people within the organization. They they disagree with the fact that there is antisemitism on campus, but then Students Supporting Israel um Tikva Hillel students, you know, they’ve been outspoken in their belief that they feel unsafe walking on campus. So it’s honestly difficult to tell at this time.


Priyanka Aribindi: Esha, you brought up the national media, and I want to talk about that conversation because, I mean, it must be incredibly interesting as students of these universities at this time to be like, you know, so closely watched. But what do you think national media is getting right and getting wrong about what’s going on on your campus? 


Esha Karam: Yeah, well, I think one of the central issues is, you know, the access that Columbia isn’t giving to press, our campus is closed off to anyone without a Columbia ID, and that includes, for a large part, the press. And I think one of the things that’s, you know, a distinction that’s hard to make is between the activity that’s going on around campus and within campus. Right. And so there are different actors who are coming around campus and not affiliates who are gathering, um in support of of the students who were arrested. But those protesters are distinct from what’s happening inside of campus. But since Thursday, we haven’t seen any, um arrests inside of campus. Right. And so one of our jobs as as student reporters is to really provide as much context as we can, you know, when national media outlets are reporting, they’re, you know, interviewing a couple students maybe, but we’ve really been on the ground, you know, this whole time. And even before October 7th, we’ve interviewed hundreds of students really, we’re able to get that, you know, diverse array of perspectives that really no one else can get, right. And so I think when you inherently try to simplify a story line into, you know, a complex community and the stories of a complex community into one story, into, you know, a news segment on a national media, it’s hard to capture all the distinctions and all the different voices in sort of singular narratives, I think. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Sure. Aarya, I also want to ask you about your thoughts on national media coverage of what’s gone on at Berkeley, and if you feel like they’re getting the story or it’s bits and pieces here and there. 


Aarya Mukherjee: I think with Berkeley especially, it’s difficult to get the full story just because of the size of our student body. I mean, we have 45,000 students, and they all, I guess, have different attachments to, what’s happening nationally and internationally. The Ran Bar-Yoshafat incident, kind of the catalyst for the House investigation that was largely covered as an anti-Semitic mob. I mean, that’s how it was defined by Congresswoman Virginia Fox in the letter she sent to UC Berkeley to start this investigation. Um. However, I do feel as though the national media, um has been doing a good job of at least amplifying the voices of students in a way that really hasn’t been happening recently. I mean, we’ve seen students testify in front of Congress and share their stories, and they’ve been able to talk about how they feel on campus. And I think that’s also an important perspective. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I want to ask you both about the administrations on your campuses and their response to these protests so far. Aarya, let’s start with you. What has has the response been from Berkeley’s administrators? 


Aarya Mukherjee: Yeah, there’s also an important thing to mention here is that the chancellor of UC Berkeley is about to change. It used to be Carol Christ, and now it’s going to be Rich Lyons. So there actually is a transition of leadership happening currently at UC Berkeley. However, uh there has been calls from both sides against this current administration, Christ administration, to do more for them, whether it be Jewish students who who want the administration to step up and support them, or whether it be the pro-Palestinian students. Those are part of the UC Divestment Coalition that have set up the encampment on Sproul Hall steps. Their primary demand is that UC Berkeley administration acknowledge what’s going on in Gaza and reprimand it. Both sides feel as though administration is not doing enough. And but from when I’ve talked to um the administrators and the new chancellor that’s coming in, he said his primary goal is to make sure that UC Berkeley is a place where administration does not have a political stance, and allows free speech to be seen by all groups and parties.


Priyanka Aribindi: And Esha, I know a lot’s been going on at Columbia. There are calls now for the school’s president to resign. Tell us more about the administration’s response so far and getting NYPD involved. And you know what has come since. 


Esha Karam: Similar to Berkeley honestly, Columbia is no stranger to protests and activism on campus. You know what’s been, I think, jarring has been to see the administration’s response, particularly at this time. Minouche Shafik’s decision to allow and authorize the NYPD to come onto campus on Thursday was one that many did not think she would take. So I think her administration’s role going forward is to rebuild the trust on many, many sides. Students no longer feel like her administration is really listening to them, whether it’s that they feel unsafe walking around campus or whether it’s her decision to bring the NYPD onto campus. I will also say that there are several groups on campus who are committed to continuing to work with her, even though they disagree with the decisions that her administration has made. We’re seeing many calls from politicians to get her to resign and step down from her position, but from within the community, we are also hearing voices from faculty, from even students who are saying we understand that her administration has harmed us, but we want to move forward. We want to work with her. I think, again, there are many sides to this discussion and many nuances. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. And Aarya, do you have any sense of if these tensions will calm down any time soon? Do you know what that would take? 


Aarya Mukherjee: Both the students and the administration seem as though they don’t want to move. I mean, on Monday, when I was talking to the spokespeople from the group that is organizing the encampment at the base of Sproul Hall, they said that um they would not move unless their demands are met. Um. Even if they are suspended, arrested, or expelled, they still will not move until those demands are met. I mean, and their demands are many, but primarily it’s the UC divestment from groups that support the war in Gaza, is essentially what it is. But then again, I spoke to the administration and they said they have no plans to divest. So, I mean, they’re kind of at a standstill here. I mean, of course, there’s only three weeks left roughly in our semester at UC Berkeley before students kind of go home for the summer. But I think on a national level, I don’t see this kind of climate ending as long as these congressional inquiries continue. You can say that that was kind of the spark plug for what happened in Columbia. The president of Columbia’s testimony to the House. And, I mean, there’s a similar situation that happened at Harvard where after the testimony given by President Gay she resigned, same thing at Penn. And that trend is expanding into UC Berkeley especially. I would not be surprised if either Christ, Lyons, or UC President Drake ends up in Washington at some point during the summer or in the next coming weeks. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That was my conversation with Esha Karam of the Columbia Spectator and Aarya Mukherjee of Berkeley’s The Daily Californian. We’ll continue to follow this story, but that is the latest for now. We’ll get to some headlines in just a moment. But if you like our show, please make sure to subscribe and share with your friends. We will be back after some ads. [music break]




Josie Duffy Rice: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Starting with updates out of the Trump trial. On the second day of testimony, David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer, and other tabloids took the stand again as the first witness. It’s never a great sign if your first witness published the National Enquirer. He told the court he was hired to be the quote, ‘eyes and ears’ of the 2016 presidential campaign, to prevent stories that could be damaging to then candidate Donald Trump from being published. He also testified that he bought the secrecy of Trump’s doorman at the time. Judge Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the case, also held a hearing about whether or not Trump violated the gag order banning the president from making public statements about the ongoing case. During the gag order hearing, the Trump legal team seemed to be grasping at straws for concrete evidence that Trump had been attacked first, but Merchan wasn’t buying it. He told Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, that their defense was, quote, “losing all credibility with the court.” The prosecution accused Trump of violating the order 11 times so far. They’re asking the judge to fine Trump $1,000 for each violation. Merchan has not ruled on the gag order, but Trump still posted on Truth Social after this entire event before the judge has ruled so. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Old habits, old habits. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Old habits die hard. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Oh man. 


Priyanka Aribindi: The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments today in a case that could decide whether or not states have to provide emergency abortion care to pregnant patients. The case involves Idaho’s near-total abortion ban that makes providing an abortion a felony, unless the pregnant person’s life is at serious risk. The Biden administration sued the state, arguing that Idaho’s ban was in direct conflict with a federal law that requires most hospitals to provide an abortion to anyone in life threatening conditions. Attorneys for the state of Idaho are arguing that the federal law isn’t applicable because it goes against the state’s laws that protect, quote, “unborn children.” They also argue that Idaho’s law already includes lifesaving exceptions. But ever since it went into effect in 2022, six pregnant people who needed an emergency abortion could not get one in Idaho. They had to be flown out of state to get the care that they needed. So I don’t know if that’s really working. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And physicians have been faced with the decision to either save a pregnant person’s life or risk being prosecuted. After a lot of legal back and forth in January, the Supreme Court said it would weigh in on the case, but the court did not block Idaho’s ban in the meantime, allowing it to remain in effect until the court decides the case in June. 


Josie Duffy Rice: This is one of the things about Roe that was so important, right? Because now it’s like if you’re a doctor, you can be prosecuted if you don’t provide the abortion and prosecuted if you do. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. It puts so many people in like the worst, most impossible positions and so many people who need this care can’t get it and and have to find a way to cross state lines if they are so lucky and able to do that. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. The Justice Department said on Tuesday it will pay $138 million to settle with the victims of Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State University sports doctor and the team physician for USA gymnastics. More than 100 athletes, including members of the US women’s gymnastics team, reported sexual abuse they endured from Nassar under the guise of medical treatment. In 2021, the DOJ’s inspector general released a report detailing how the FBI did not take these allegations seriously when they were brought to the agency’s attention in 2015. And because of that, Nassar’s abuse was allowed to continue until he was eventually fired in 2016. The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by a group of Nasser’s victims in 2022 over the Justice Department’s failures. The money will be distributed evenly to a group of 139 victims. That’s about one million dollars per person. Nassar is currently incarcerated after being sentenced to over 100 years in prison. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And finally, we have got some results from the Pennsylvania primary for you. President Biden and former President Trump easily won their respective primaries. That should come to the surprise of nobody, and representative Summer Lee narrowly beat out her opponent. On yesterday’s show, we told you about the tension the war in Gaza has created for Lee’s seat, so her win may impact the way the Democrats campaign on this issue. We don’t have the uncommitted vote total yet since voters were encouraged to write it in, but we will obviously keep you posted in our continuing coverage of the Gaza protest votes. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s exciting to see her keep her seat. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And those are the headlines. 




Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, buy yourself something nice. Like that necklace. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And tell your friends to listen. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading and not just university newspapers like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter, so check it out and subscribe at! I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


[spoken together] And love and gratitude to you listener. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Maybe you deserve the necklace. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, you should get the necklace for someone you hate. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Just trying to support um, a young aspiring jewelry designer. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Melania Trump. 


Josie Duffy Rice: She should make a I don’t care, do you remember that? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. She should make that necklace. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That could be a hit. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Sadly iconic. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Sadly iconic. [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Michell Eloy, Greg Walters, and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Erica Morrison, and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.