Columbia University president's talks with protesters stalled, school won't divest from Israel

Columbia University's president said Monday that talks with student organizers had not reached an agreement and that the university would not divest from Israel — a move that has sparked protests on college campuses across the country.

The university issued notices Monday for the camp protest, now in its second week, to vacate by 2 p.m. or participants will be “suspended pending further investigation” and barred from completing the spring 2024 semester.

Meanwhile at the camp, the participants voted among themselves and almost unanimously agreed to stay.

President Minoch Shafiq in his statement The protesters, who camped out on the university campus and asked for a voluntary dispersal, said the demonstration had created an “unpleasant environment for many of our Jewish students and faculty,” adding that “external actors” had contributed to a “hostile atmosphere” around the university gates and had become a “noisy distraction” for students.

Shafiq quoted the May 15 commencement as saying, “We don't want to take away the graduation ceremony of thousands of students and their families and friends.”

Columbia University President Minoch Shafik testified on Capitol Hill on April 17.Jose Luis Magana / AB

Columbia was the first elite institution to be hit by protests in support of the Palestinian cause, with students demanding that the school divest from investing in arms production and support Israel in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war, which drew more than 34,000 people. Killed in the Gaza Strip.

Protests quickly spread across campuses from coast to coast last week, resulting in mass arrests and crackdowns.

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“The university will not withdraw from Israel,” which offered to create an accelerated timeline for reviewing new programs from school students. Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investment, It examines deviation, Shafiq said.

“The university proposed to publish a process for students to access Columbia's list of direct investment holdings, and increase the frequency of updates to that list of holdings,” he added.

A rally in support of Gaza at Columbia University in New York on April 27, 2024.Yuki Iwamura / AB

Despite the stalemate in the talks and the Colombia protest entering its second week, there appears to have been some minor movement in the talks.

“The university is committed to investments in health and education in Gaza, including support for early childhood development and support for displaced scholars,” said Shafiq.

“We request the people in the camp to disperse voluntarily. We are consulting with a broad group in our community to explore alternative internal options to end this crisis as quickly as possible. We will continue to update the community with new developments,” he said.

Notices posted to protest participants Monday morning, seen by NBC News, asked protesters to identify themselves to a university official and sign a form agreeing to an alternative resolution to violations of university policy at the camp.

Signatories are eligible to complete the semester in good standing and will not be suspended if they obey university policies.

Those who do not leave by 2 pm will be suspended.

“We regret that we have to take these steps, but we want all students to complete their work, study for exams, feel welcome in the community, and restore order on campus,” the statement said.

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If the encampment is not removed, the notice said: “We will initiate disciplinary proceedings due to violation of university policies. These are the policies you agree to abide by when you join our community.

It noted that the university would provide an “alternative venue for demonstrations after the examination period and commencement”.

Those who sign the resolution of substitution consent to disciplinary probation, agree to abide by university policies and agree to participate in university disciplinary processes.

A rally by Columbia University's apartheid chapter, along with protected union group Student Workers of Columbia, is also planned for Monday at 1 p.m.

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