At 2:30 pm on Monday, April 29, Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) held a press conference to address the end of negotiations and the University’s plans to clear the Encampment.

On Monday afternoon at 2:30 pm, Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) held a press conference in front of Butler Library. CUAD negotiators and organizers Sueda Polat and Mahmoud Khalil spoke on behalf of the organization. 

Polat started the presser by acknowledging Shafik’s explicit statement that the University would not divest, criticizing the administration for its “understanding of the words ‘boycott’ and ‘divest.’” Additionally, they noted that while the administration had proposed a timeline for divestment during negotiations, they refused to give “any commitment that the ultimate decision would be binding.” 

Polat claimed that while President Shafik has offered urban development and childhood education programs for Gazans, these offers amount to “nothing more than bribery.” She also explained that instead of canceling the Tel Aviv Dual Degree Program and the Tel Aviv Welcome Center, which still has not opened, the administration said they would “review access to these institutions.” Polat believes this overlooks CUAD’s belief that the Tel Aviv Dual Degree Program “can never be in line” with the University’s policies of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity. 

Polat also established that the University is “refusing to be flexible on some of our most basic demands,” declaring, “The students refuse to trade in the blood of Palestinians.” 

Regarding their demands for amnesty, Polat claimed students were given more discipline, citing the June 30, 2025 date written in the “Alternative Resolution” notice handed out at the Encampment earlier today. “Where we asked for amnesty,” she stated, “They gave us more discipline.”

Polat concluded by stating that the University is engaging in attempts “to stifle the student movement.” 

Khalil stated that “the students in this Encampment are a gift to Columbia” and mentioned that the University “should be proud of its student activists” rather than suspend them and “trample its reputation.” He also described the protest as “an anti-war movement.”

Polat and Khalil then took questions from the press. Returning to the mic, Polat responded that the student protesters would “not be moved by [the University’s] intimidation tactics,” stating, “We will not be moved. We demand divestment. We will not be moved unless by force.” 

When Polat and Khalil were asked whether they would accept the suspensions, referring to the disciplinary action forms handed out earlier Monday morning, they answered that the Encampment had unanimously voted to continue the Encampment until Columbia divests. Polat stated that the administration must “put aside geopolitical interests” and that the University is “buckling under congressional pressure.” She further stated that it is “up to the University” to act according to its principles.

When asked about reports of antisemitism during recent campus protests, Polat stated that the Encampment has always had clear “community guidelines,” and that CUAD welcomes anyone who enters the space in agreement with those guidelines and is open to dialogue. She further stated that students have shared religious observances together and called the Encampment a “place of community, of communal learning.” 

She further explained that students in the Encampment are aware of the potential consequences, but have decided to show “solidarity.” She then responded to President Shafik’s earlier claims that the Encampment had disrupted student life, including Commencement, stating, “The disruption of graduation falls solely on the shoulders of this administration.” 

Polat and Khalil were then asked about the alleged state of emergency. Polat answered that “[CUAD had] confirmed with members of the [University] Senate that there was a state of emergency.” She also reiterated that negotiations are “off the table right now” because it refuses the “basic tenets of student needs.” “Negotiations are a package deal,” Polat affirmed. 

Finally, Polat took a question about recent negotiations with the University after Shafik’s email this morning. She reiterated that “CUAD has always been open to discussions” and that if asked again, the group would join the University in further discussions, but so far had not met with the administration again. She concluded by saying that CUAD does not currently know how many students are affected by the suspension, but it remains up to students whether they choose to sign the disciplinary notice. 

After the presser, Bwog asked Polat how she believes everything will come to an end. “We can’t be sure,” she stated. “But no matter what it comes to, we know we’ve made change.”

CUAD Presser via Bwog Staff