top of page

President Faces City College Student Body After Encampment Conflict

By Elizabeth Reich & Rhiannon Rashidi

May 8, at 4 p.m., City College President Vincent Boudreau held a town hall over Zoom to discuss the timeline of events at the CUNY Gaza Solidarity Encampment, and to give students a chance to ask him questions. Since President Boudreau and City University of New York (CUNY) Chancellor Matos Rodriguez made the call to send NYPD into campus to clear the encampment on April 30, members of the student body have waited for an opportunity to address him. Over 500 students were on the call, and many missed classes to attend.   

President Boudreau spent the majority of the call going through a powerpoint presentation detailing the timeline of events at the encampment, over the six days it was up. He told students from the beginning of the call that the powerpoint was not going to include all of the photo and video evidence that was shown to faculty at a town hall hosted for them the day before. According to him, he cut some of this footage due to “potentially triggering” material. 

“We don’t have as extensive a powerpoint to substantiate my thoughts on the matter,” President Boudreau said. “But we can go into any of these details a little more in the q & a.”  

When the q & a finally started, students jumped at the chance to address the president. “You took far too long, telling your side of the story,” one student said. Over 30 questions were written in the chat, and a few students were allowed to ask their questions verbally. Some of them had questions about finals and classes for the rest of the semester. Others wanted the President to explain his decisions. And many were angry and scared. 

The first student to speak wanted the president to address reports that protesters were injured by public safety officers and the NYPD the night the encampment was cleared. 

“I’m just wondering why you’re not talking about the violence of the NYPD against people in the encampment,” Samir, a City College student that was at the encampment said. “I saw people with broken ankles, broken ribs. Their faces were bruised, people were bleeding. I don’t think anything justifies that.”

Boudreau responded that any reports of injuries were “rumors” at this time as “no students have come forward.” But said, “When you bring in the NYPD, they will use the tactics that they use.” He also told the students that public safety officers were injured, one with a torn rotator cuff. 

According to him, there are efforts to obtain police body cam footage, but they may take as long as a year to get it.

President Boudreau restated during the call that he made the decision to call in the NYPD after protesters broke into and attempted to occupy the Howard E. Wille Administration Building, feeling that the university had “no leverage” over the direction and fervor of the demonstrators anymore. He said it was a “call of last resort,” and that the encampment had been allowed to continue without much interference up until that point, though negotiations had stalled. 

“I had two choices,” he said. “To allow activists who had decided to break into our buildings do that, or stop them. And if you believe that the right choice would have been to just let them come in and break into our buildings, then I just disagree.”

He said that the protesters who broke into Wille smashed seven computers, dumped financial aid files on the floor, and broke an alarm system. Sources that attended the faculty town hall on May 7 said that President Boudreau showed security camera footage of the protesters inside Wille. He did not show this footage at the students’ town hall.

That was not the only thing he left out of his presentation to the students. At the faculty town hall, President Boudreau said that the Board of Trustees requested a six million dollar emergency spending package. Two million would go to safety expenditures, and the other four for “security services with up to 100 additional public safety officers.” 

Miguel Johnson, a senior at the Colin Powell School who knew about the emergency spending request, wanted to know why so many additional officers would be brought to campus. “If you say the majority of disruptors, the agitators, were not CCNY [students or faculty], then what is the point of having this increased public safety presence?” he asked. He said he thinks that more public safety officers on campus could make students and faculty feel “unsafe and uneasy.”

President Boudreau explained that the additional public safety officers would be temporary, and that the main priority is to prevent protesters from retaking a building. He said that he is opposed to the “outside agitator” narrative, but stated repeatedly that most people at the encampment when dangerous actions occurred had no connection to CCNY or CUNY. 

According to him, throughout the 6 days the encampment was up, multiple events occurred that were a “breach of trust” between the university and encampment leadership. These events included multiple instances of lighting flares, a fire on the Marshak building roof started by a firearms-grade flare that caused $250,000 in damage, self-defense classes held at the encampment, and the alleged removal of rocks from the Wingate Hall building to break windows.

He said he hopes that additional public safety officers would deter these actions and prevent any future physical confrontations. And added that he didn’t initially share the emergency spending request with the students because he didn’t want them to think the administration was “most concerned about money.”

One student at the town hall wanted to know how the college would keep students safe when they return. 

President Boudreau said that everyone will need to show a City College ID to enter the campus. “I think the thing we can do that's going to be most effective to keep everyone on campus safe is to make sure that everyone on campus is part of the CCNY community,” he said. 

He added that the decision to close campus and move classes online did not come from doubts that they could keep students safe, restating that they closed campus because they did not have enough public safety officers to protect the buildings. 

Another student wanted to know if the university had any intention of meeting the demands of the encampment. President Boudreau said that he was meeting with all CUNY Presidents to discuss each demand, but was vague about to what extent they anticipate accepting the protesters' terms, or if they intend to at all. “I’m not really in a position to tell you what the chancellor is thinking. I don’t know that his thoughts around it are clarified,” he added.   

Update (6 p.m.): Provost Tony Liss sent an email announcing that classes will resume in person for the final three days of classes and for finals week. He also shared that shuttle buses will resume their normal schedule.

They are planning for an in-person graduation ceremony, and to hold summer classes as normal. 


bottom of page