Updated Apr 29, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Columbia begins student suspensions after protestors resist leaving camp

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators hold a rally April 29 after marching around the "Gaza Solidarity Encampment" on Columbia University, as a deadline to clear the encampment passed. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Columbia University has begun suspending some student protestors after school leadership told them to leave their pro-Palestinian encampment by 2 p.m. or face disciplinary action.

Why it matters: Tensions have escalated at universities across the country with Columbia under the spotlight since its leadership called the New York Police Department to break up pro-Palestinian protesters' encampments.

The latest: Ben Chang, vice president for communications at Columbia University, confirmed suspensions had begun during a press briefing at 5pm ET, three hours after the school's set deadline.

  • Chang did not say how many students will be suspended but confirmed they will be unable to finish the semester or graduate.
  • Students will also be barred from entering any campus housing or academic buildings.
  • Students were asked to leave the encampment, in part, Chang said, to allow Columbia's commencement ceremony to be held as planned. No details were provided on current graduation plans.

Catch up quick: The school sent a message to student protestors on Monday morning, informing them that they must leave the encampment by 2pm ET and sign a form.

  • The form would commit the student to abide by university policies through June 30, 2025 or their graduation, if it came first.
  • Refusal to leave and sign the form would result in a student becoming ineligible to graduate this semester, or participate in academic and extracurricular activities, the university said on Monday morning.
  • "Sanctions include probation, access restriction, suspension for a term or more and expulsion," the notice from the university said.

Driving the news: Academic leaders and student organizers who have met since Wednesday were "not able to come to an agreement," Columbia President Minouche Shafik said in an email to the campus community.

  • Divestment from companies with links to Israel is one of the students' major demands at protests across the country.
  • "While the university will not divest from Israel, the university offered to develop an expedited timeline for review of new proposals," Shafik said.

The fine print: Campus leadership said sanctioned protests could continue at Columbia after reading days, final exams and commencement.

  • The university must receive two days' notice and protests must be held in authorized spaces.

Zoom out: Encampments and sit-ins at universities across the country expanded following arrests at Columbia earlier this month.

  • The University of Southern California canceled its main commencement ceremony, citing safety concerns.
  • At the University of Texas at Austin, "no encampments will be allowed," per Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. "Instead, arrests are being made," he said.

Go deeper: What pro-Palestinian protesters on college campuses want

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the latest information from Columbia University.

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