Pro-Palestinian college protests against Israel-Hamas war at Portland State, UCLA, Columbia campuses

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Columbia University President Minouche Shafik prepares to testify before the House Education and Workforce Committee during a hearing on Columbia University’s response to antisemitism in Washington, DC, on April 17.  Francis Chung/POLITICO/AP/File

After two weeks of tumult and calls for her resignation, the president of Columbia University says she is “committed” and will “rebuild the community on our campus.”

The group of protesters who occupied Hamilton Hall on Columbia University’s campus, “crossed a new line,” President Minouche Shafik said in a video message released on X Friday. 

Shafik called the past two weeks on campus “among the most difficult in Columbia’s history.”

“The turmoil and tension, division and disruption have impacted the entire community,” Shafik said in the message, which was just over three minutes long.  

Columbia University students “paid an especially high price,” as a result of the protests, she said. 

“You lost your final days in the classroom and residence halls. For those of you who are seniors, you’re finishing college the way you started, online,” Shafik said

The University tried multiple times to come to resolution via dialogue, Shafik said. 

“Academic leaders talked to students for eight days and nights,” she said. “(The) University made a sincere and good offer, but it was not accepted.” 

While many of the protesters on campus were mostly peaceful and “cared deeply,” Shafik said the group that occupied Hamilton Hall “crossed a new line.” 

Shafik called the occupation a “violent act” that affected the safety of students. 

“Every one of us has a role to play in bringing back the values of truth and civil discourse that polarization has severely damaged. Here at Columbia, parallel realities and parallel conversations have walled us off from other perspectives,” Shafik said.

Shafik said she was born in the Middle East “in a Muslim family with many Jewish and Christian friends.” Through her two decades of international work Shafik said she’s realized “people can disagree and still make progress.” 

“The issues that are challenging us, the Palestinian Israeli conflict, antisemitism and anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias have existed for a long time,” Shafik said. “And Columbia, despite being a remarkable institution, cannot solve them, single handedly.”

Shafik urged students to be an example of a better world, one in which people who disagree “do so civilly.”

“We have a lot to do, but I am committed to working at it every day and with each of you to rebuild community on our campus.”  


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