Updated Apr 24, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Columbia calls talks on students' Gaza protest encampment "constructive"

 Columbia University students participate in an ongoing pro-Palestinian encampment on their campus following last week's arrest of more than 100 protesters on April 23, 2024 in New York City.

Columbia University students participate in a days-long pro-Palestinian encampment on campus on Tuesday following last week's arrest of more than 100 protesters at the college in New York City. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Columbia University gave pro-Palestinian protesters a deadline to resolve talks with officials over dismantling their encampment, president Minouche Shafik announced Tuesday.

State of play: Shafik said in a message posted on the school's website Tuesday that the college would "consider alternative options" if students didn't leave the area by midnight. A college spokesperson said in an emailed statement just before 3am Wednesday that after "constructive dialogue" the university "will continue conversations for the next 48 hours."

  • Student protesters had "committed to dismantling and removing a significant number of tents" and agreed to comply with all New York City Fire Department requirements, the spokesperson said.
  • The protesters had agreed to "ensure that those not affiliated with Columbia will leave" the site and only those from the college "will be participating in the protest," the spokesperson added.
  • "Student protesters have taken steps to make the encampment welcome to all and have prohibited discriminatory or harassing language."

Why it matters: Columbia's student protesters have inspired other encampments and demonstrations against the war in Gaza on campuses across the U.S., as American colleges become flashpoints for pro-Palestinian protests.

Driving the news: Shafik said in Tuesday's message that administrators had been in talks with student organizers to dismantle the encampment.

  • If an agreement was not reached by midnight, Shafik said "we will have to consider alternative options for clearing the West Lawn and restoring calm to campus so that students can complete the term and graduate."

What we're watching: Although the university asked police to arrest student protesters last week, the New York Times reports there were no immediate signs of the police moving in to the encampment early Wednesday.

  • Jewish Voices for Peace, a pro-Palestinian group whose Columbia chapter is involved in the protests, did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.
  • Representatives for the New York Police Department did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Go deeper: Columbia University becomes a congressional pilgrimage

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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