Columbia University demonstrators in talks with administration officials

NEW YORK — Officials at Columbia University were continuing talks Wednesday with student demonstrators from the Gaza Solidarity Encampment as the protest reaches a full week.

At 9:41 p.m. Tuesday, university President Nemat “Minouche” Shafik sent an email to the Columbia community setting a midnight deadline for an agreement to be reached about dismantling the encampment and dispersing the protesters.

“I very much hope these discussions are successful,” she wrote. “If they are not, 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.”

As midnight passed, Columbia University Apartheid Divest posted a statement on X saying, “We refuse to concede to cowardly threats and blatant intimidation by university administration. We will continue to peacefully protest.”

The statement also said the university had threatened to call the National Guard. But after visiting the university earlier in the week, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Tuesday she had no plans to deploy the National Guard.

As midnight approached on Tuesday, a student organizer announced that the deadline had been extended to 8 a.m. Wednesday.

At 4:09 a.m., the Office of the President sent an email saying the discussion deadline would be extended for 48 hours, given the constructive dialogue, and the university would report back on progress.

The email announced that leaders of the student encampment had agreed to remove a significant number of tents, get non-Columbia affiliates to leave the encampment and comply with New York Fire Department requirements. They also agreed to ensure that the encampment is “welcome to all” and to prohibit “discriminatory or harassing language.”

This development comes nearly a week after more than 100 students were arrested at the school on April 18, after Shafik authorized police to clear away protesters. Some of the students received suspension notices from the school.

Columbia’s action prompted an onslaught of pro-Palestinian demonstrations at other universities and responses from faculty and politicians.

Students at other campuses, such as Yale, Stanford and New York University, have also rallied around the Palestinian cause, calling for their universities to divest from companies with ties to Israel and for a cease-fire in Gaza. Many also have put up tent encampments on their campuses. About 150 students and faculty were arrested at New York University Monday night.

Columbia also announced Tuesday morning that classes on the Morningside main campus, where the protests are taking place, will be offered in a hybrid format for the remainder of the spring semester. The last day of classes is April 29.

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