Columbia University Extends Deadline for Talks With Protesters to Dismantle Encampment

Aldgra Fredly
By Aldgra Fredly
April 24, 2024US News
Columbia University Extends Deadline for Talks With Protesters to Dismantle Encampment
Columbia University students participate in an ongoing pro-Palestinian encampment on their campus following last week's arrest of more than 100 protesters in New York City on April 23, 2024. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Columbia University said on April 24 that it has extended the deadline for negotiations with pro-Palestinian protesters to dismantle their encampment on the university’s West Lawn following “important progress” in their talks.

University President Minouche Shafik had initially set a midnight deadline to reach an agreement with protesters over the dismantling of the encampment, dispersing, and adhering to university policies.

Ms. Shafik said the university would consider “alternative options” to clear the encampment if an agreement wasn’t reached by the deadline.

“I fully support the importance of free speech, respect the right to demonstrate, and recognize that many of the protestors have gathered peacefully,” the university president said in an April 23 statement.

“However, the encampment raises serious safety concerns, disrupts campus life, and has created a tense and at times hostile environment for many members of our community. It is essential that we move forward with a plan to dismantle it,” she added.

Just hours after her announcement, the university said in a statement that the talks would now be extended for another 48 hours as they have made “important progress” in their negotiations to clear the encampment.

Student protesters have “committed to dismantling and removing a significant number of tents” and to comply with all New York City Fire Department requirements concerning activities and safety, the university said.

According to the update on the university’s website, student protesters will also ensure that “those not affiliated with Columbia will leave” the site and that “only Columbia University students will be participating in the protest.”

The university also stated that student protesters have “taken steps to make the encampment welcome to all and have prohibited discriminatory or harassing language.”

The university’s statement was released hours before U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-La.) trip to Columbia to meet with Jewish students and address anti-Semitism on college campuses.

One of the encampment organizers, Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), said its negotiating team has “left the table and refuses to return until there is a written commitment that the administration will not be unleashing the NYPD or the National Guard on its students.”

“We will not concede to cowardly threats and blatant intimidation from an administration that continuously acts in bad faith and repeatedly neglects the safety of the students,” CUAD said in a statement released by Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine on April 24.

Pro-Palestine supporters, some in tents, gather on the campus of Columbia University in New York on April 22, 2024. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The Columbia College Student Council issued a statement urging the university “to not repeat their recent mistake in inviting the NYPD to clear peaceful protesters off of Columbia’s campus.”

Protests at Columbia began on April 17, which came in response to the Israel–Hamas war, triggered by Hamas’s deadly attack on Israeli territory on Oct. 7, 2023.

Protesters have demanded a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and an end to U.S. military assistance for Israel, as well as the university’s divestment from companies profiting from Israel’s incursion.

On April 18, police arrested more than 100 people on Columbia University’s campus after Ms. Shafik authorized the New York Police Department to clear the encampment from the South Lawn of the campus.

Ms. Shafik recently moved all classes to virtual learning, saying the action was taken to “deescalate the rancor and give us all a chance to consider [the] next steps.”

However, her decision has drawn criticism from several lawmakers.

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) said Columbia’s move to switch to virtual learning proves that Ms. Shafik “is unable to stop the antisemitic activity on her campus & keep her students safe.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) stated on X, formerly Twitter, that Ms. Shafik should step down immediately “for allowing students to turn their campus into a breeding ground for hatred.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.