Updated Apr 22, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Columbia cancels in-person classes after days of pro-Palestinian protests

About seven tents are seen on Columbia's lawn with people walking in the foreground and background of the image.

A pro-Palestinian encampment occupies Columbia University's lawn on April 22. Photo: Charly Triballeau/Getty Images

Columbia University announced all classes would be virtual Monday, as Passover begins, following days of pro-Palestinian protests on campus.

Why it matters: Big-name colleges have been cracking down more aggressively on pro-Palestinian protests, which they say are getting increasingly intense and disruptive.

  • Columbia President Minouche Shafik called the New York Police Department last week on pro-Palestinian activists, who set up an encampment again immediately after. NYPD arrested more than 100 people after Shafik requested their removal.
  • "Students across an array of communities have conveyed fears for their safety and we have announced additional actions we are taking to address security concerns," Shafik said in a statement. "The decibel of our disagreements has only increased in recent days."
  • She added that "individuals who are not affiliated with Columbia" have come to the campus "to pursue their own agendas."
  • Protesters over the weekend seemingly unaffiliated with the university were accused of celebrating Hamas and targeting Jewish students, the New York Times reported.
  • At Yale University, police also arrested pro-Palestinian protesters Monday morning.

The latest: A large group of Columbia faculty and staff held a walkout and news conference on Monday afternoon criticizing the university's handling of the protests.

  • The university declined to comment on the movement.

What they're saying: "I understand that many are experiencing deep moral distress and want Columbia to help alleviate this by taking action," Shafik said. "We should be having serious conversations about how Columbia can contribute."

  • A working group of deans, university administrators and faculty members will work to "try to bring this crisis to a resolution," per Shafik.

Zoom in: The canceled classes coincide with the first day of Passover, which begins at sunset on Monday.

  • Shafik denounced intimidating and harassing behavior, as well as antisemitic language in her announcement.
  • Students who do not live on campus were asked not to come to the university on Monday.

Zoom out: Harvard University restricted access to the Harvard Yard, a center of the school, until Friday afternoon, the Harvard Crimson reported.

  • An announcement posted at the yard's entrance gates warned of disciplinary action against students who bring in unauthorized tents or tables like at Columbia's encampment.
  • On Friday, students and affiliates held a solidarity protest at Harvard, per the Crimson.

Catch up quick: Shafik testified in a congressional hearing on Wednesday over antisemitism on Columbia's campus since Oct. 7.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated with details about staff staging a walkout.

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