It's been a chaotic week on college campuses across the country, as student encampments protesting Israel's war in Gaza have clashed with university officials and local law enforcement. The protest movement, which first began at Columbia, has reached multiple Boston-area institutions — including MIT, Harvard, Northeastern, Tufts and Emerson College, where more than 100 protesters were arrested early Thursday morning.

At Harvard, only registered students and faculty are being allowed on campus right now, so regular news media can't get in to report. But Azusa Lippit, a reporter at the Harvard’s student newspaper — the Harvard Crimson — can see what’s happening on campus.

Lippit joined GBH’s All Things Considered host Arun Rath to discuss what she's been seeing on campus. What follows is a lightly edited transcript.

Arun Rath: Take us back to the beginning of the encampment at Harvard and give us a timeline here.

Azusa Lippit: It all began around noon on Wednesday. There was a rally organized by some pro-Palestine groups on campus. And the rally quickly turned into a flurry of encampment set-up as protesters and campers ran out of dorm buildings bordering Harvard Yard into the middle of the yard and began to set up tents.

It has been largely a very peaceful protest, especially because, since Sunday, Harvard Yard has been closed to non-Harvard ID holders.

Rath: Yeah, I was going to ask you — I was at Harvard on Saturday for a concert and had no trouble. What is the situation like now for outsiders?

Lippit: Right. So we've had a couple of reports of stragglers making it through the Yard, but it is generally just: non-Harvard affiliates are being turned away at the gates.

Rath: And how has the protest been going along since then? I know a big part of a protest is wanting to be able to get contact with the public and the community that you're in. Has the lack of access affected the protests in any way that you can tell?

Lippit: Protesters have certainly been making an effort to publicize on social media. They have made very clear their three demands, which are: that the university disclose any institutional and financial ties to Israel, divest from those investments, and then that the university drop disciplinary charges against student activists.

Rath: And what has been the administration's response so far, both to the demands and also to the actual protest itself?

Lippit: Thursday afternoon, the administration — as the Crimson reported — sent an email to students stating that the encampment violates college policies and warning of disciplinary action for protesters.

But so far, they have just been doing these daily ID checks, where administrators approach the encampment and ask students in the encampment to present their identification, which is then noted down by administrators.

Rath: You say “noted down by administrators” — that that sounds like that could be ominous? Not just checking IDs, but writing down who is where?

Lippit: Right. Administrators have said that that is for the purposes of both student safety and for potential violation of policy. But the timeline on what disciplinary action will look like is still unclear.

More broadly, administrators have emphasized that they hope to enforce their policies in what they call a “content neutral” manner.

Rath: What does that mean?

Lippit: That they stick to their language.

Rath: From what you've been able to tell — in terms of the campus authorities asking for IDs, the interactions with the students — are things tense?

Lippit: I haven't been at encampments on other campuses, but comparatively it seems much more peaceful here. There's no even city police presence in the yard, only Harvard University — a couple of police cars parked around the encampment. And it has largely been a very peaceful protest.

“Whenever we speak with protesters about timelines, they say, ’We’ll be here until our demands are met.’”
Azusa Lippit, reporter for the Harvard Crimson

Rath: And any signs or rumblings that that there might be anything like what happened at Emerson in terms of law enforcement coming in and clearing it out?

Lippit: I'd really encourage people to check out the Crimson's reporting on this. We reported that the interim president said calling in law enforcement is not out of the question.

But again, I think it's difficult for those hypotheticals. As of right now, what we've seen on the ground is — again — very much just students who are within the encampment are asked to present identification, and they do so when asked.

Rath: So we're talking midafternoon on Friday. Where do things stand in terms of, what the administration is saying about the openness of campus? If people will be able to allowed on, or how things are going to go in the coming couple of weeks?

Lippit: So last Sunday, when the Yard was closed to non-ID holders, it was announced that that policy would be until Friday — today. It's actually now looking like the Crimson will be reporting that, until next Friday, Harvard Yard will be closed to non-Harvard affiliates. So extended one week

In terms of plans for student protesters, whenever we speak with protesters about timelines, they say, “We'll be here until our demands are met.” So I think they're definitely planning on staying, according to them.

But over at the Crimson, we're hoping to just be there along the way and bring those non-Harvard affiliates reports of what happens as it unfolds.