Columbia President Shafik Extends Deadline To Clear Encampment: 12 AM, 8 AM, 48 Hours

Student protesters ask participants, 'Will you be ready to rally for your comrades?'

(Getty Images)
April 24, 2024

Columbia University president Minouche Shafik set a midnight deadline for student protesters to clear the unauthorized tent encampment that has plagued campus—only to push that deadline back twice, first to 8 a.m. and then 48 hours.

Late Tuesday night, Shafik issued a statement that set a midnight deadline for students to vacate the "Gaza Solidarity Camp." A "small group of faculty, administrators, and University Senators," she said, "have been in dialogue with student organizers to discuss the basis for dismantling the encampment, dispersing, and following university policies going forward."

"Those talks are facing a deadline of midnight tonight to reach agreement," Shafik wrote. "I very much hope these discussions are successful. 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."

The students did not take well to the announcement, with a protest leader using a megaphone to instruct those in the encampment to resist Shafik's directive, setting up a standoff with the administration.

"In advance of an imminent sweep, we are entering a period of high alert for the next three days," the student said just before midnight Tuesday, according to a video. "We may need people to turn up quickly, en masse, in front of the encampment to defend the encampment."

"Will you be ready to rally for your comrades?"

Riot police went on to assemble outside of the entrance to Columbia's campus around 2 a.m. Wednesday. But they never entered campus, with Shafik extending the deadline for negotiations to 8 a.m. Before that deadline passed, around 3 a.m., university officials said they would "continue conversations for the next 48 hours," citing a "constructive dialogue." 

"Student protesters have taken steps to make the encampment welcome to all and have prohibited discriminatory or harassing language," a university spokesperson said.

Just outside of campus, protesters chanted, "Resistance is justified when people are occupied" and "No peace on stolen land." 

Protests held near the entrance to Columbia's campus have turned violent. Last week, Arab-Israeli journalist Yoseph Haddad was pushed, punched in the face, and told to kill himself during an encounter with what he called "pro-terrorist protesters" positioned near the Columbia gates. Haddad was scheduled to speak on campus that night but was forced to cancel the event.

Within the campus gates, meanwhile, a group of Jewish students were targeted by student protesters over the weekend. The group went out on campus Saturday night with an Israeli flag, which was stolen. Pro-Hamas agitators later attempted to burn it. The group was assaulted, splashed with water, and followed by protesters, according to one of the students.

Student protesters have expressed "solidarity" with those located outside of Columbia's gates. Columbia's Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, one of the groups behind the encampment, thanked the outside protesters last week for forming a "crowd" that deterred police from entering campus.