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Drexel University to have virtual classes Monday as president calls for end to pro-Palestinian encampment

Drexel president says students participating in encampment could face disciplinary action
Drexel president says students participating in encampment could face disciplinary action 02:12

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Classes at Drexel University will be virtual Monday because dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters have set up an encampment on campus, the university president said Sunday. 

University President John Fry is calling for the end of the pro-Palestinian encampment, which was set up on the school's Korman Quad Saturday night. Fry said 40 to 60 individuals are participating in the protest as of Sunday evening. 

Nonessential employees will work remotely Monday as well. 

Fry said the protest, which was initially peaceful, has turned into a security concern for students and staff. Attempts to occupy "learning and working spaces" caused leaders to put campus buildings on lockdown, he said.

The demonstration "has proved intolerably disruptive to normal University operations and has raised serious concerns about the conduct of some participants, including distressing reports and images of protestors subjecting passersby to antisemitic speech, signs and chants," Fry said in a letter shared with the school community Sunday.

He added that the university is "coordinating with local officials and the Philadelphia Police Department to ensure the safety" of the community and allow the school to continue to operate. 

One student said the lockdown was "very inconvenient." 

"There's this Baiada center, which is a center where companies run by students can have a space there, and I have one there and I wasn't allowed to go there this morning because they're locked. I have stuff I need to do and get from there. I can't because of this. Very annoying," sophomore Eli Galdieri said.

Drexel University moves to remote learning because of pro-Palestinian encampment 03:16

Another person who visited the encampment said he supports the right to protest.

"It's the Constitution. That's what I'm in favor of," Carmelo Giagiari said. "I believe it's good, it's American." 

Protesters are calling for an immediate cease-fire. In a statement, the Drexel Palestine Coalition, which is participating in the protest, said demands include "divestment from genocide and redistribution of funds toward investments in Palestine, disclosure of material and financial expenses and profits, defense against repression and censorship and an explicit declaration that we are witnessing a genocide."

Drexel's president said the university has opened a line of communication with the protesters, hoping to convince them to leave.

The university is warning students involved in the protest that they could face disciplinary action and has also warned non-students that they are unlawfully trespassing.

The Drexel Palestine Coalition on Sunday night posted on Instagram a response to Fry's community letter. It says, in part, "Drexel administration can aid in the dissolution of the encampment by meeting our demands. We aren't going anywhere until Drexel discloses and divests."

As of Sunday afternoon, the protest was peaceful. There have not been any arrests.

The encampment at Drexel comes after 19 pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested on the University of Pennsylvania's campus Friday after groups attempted to occupy a building on campus.

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