Columbia rules out having cops clear anti-Israel encampment as latest deadline lapses

The anti-Israel encampment at Columbia University on April 28, 2024, in New York City. (Charly Triballeau/AFP)
The anti-Israel encampment at Columbia University on April 28, 2024, in New York City. (Charly Triballeau/AFP)

The latest deadline set by Columbia University for pro-Palestinian students to leave the anti-Israel protest encampment on campus has lapsed, with the school saying in an email to students that bringing back police “at this time” would be counterproductive.

The students and administrators have engaged in negotiations to end the disruptions, but the sides have not come to an agreement, university President Minouche Shafik says in a statement.

“The university’s goal for the talks was a collaborative resolution with the protestors that would result in the orderly removal of the encampment from the lawn,” Shafik writes in a letter. “The students also were asked to commit going forward to following the University’s rules, including those on the time, place and manner for demonstrations and events.”

According to the statement, among the concessions offered to students if they’d clear the encampment were “an expedited timeline for review of new proposals from the students by… the body that considers divestment matters” and an offer “to make investments in health and education in Gaza, including supporting early childhood development and support for displaced scholars,” among others.

“As the past seven months have shown, our campus is roiled by divisions over the war in Gaza,” Shafik continues, without mentioning the Hamas-led October 7 attack that sparked the ongoing conflict. “All year, we have sought to facilitate opportunities for our students and faculty to engage in constructive dialogue, and we have provided ample space for protests and vigils to take place peacefully and without disruptions to academic life.”

“But we must take into account the rights of all members of our community. The encampment has created an unwelcoming environment for many of our Jewish students and faculty. External actors have contributed to creating a hostile environment in violation of Title VI, especially around our gates, that is unsafe for everyone-including our neighbors,” she adds.

“Consistent with our interim demonstration policies, after reading days, exams and Commencement, protests may continue on campus by application with two-days’ notice in authorized locations. We have no intention of suppressing speech or the right to peaceful protest.”

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