Discussions between the University and student protesters continue along with protests outside of Columbia’s gates. Read coverage from previous days to stay up-to-date.

Update made on Saturday, April 27 at 12:40 am: Encampment general assembly

At 11 pm, the Gaza Solidarity Encampment held a general assembly meeting. They spent significant time discussing the division of labor at the Encampment with certain committees holding certain responsibilities. 

Encampment leaders then discussed negotiations with the University. “The University is offering a package deal… as opposed to a singular thing,” leaders stated. “The University seems completely committed to misunderstanding the goals of protest.” 

Leaders reiterated that they will not move until they achieve divestment. They attested that this process moves through the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (ACSRI). According to leaders, the University wants CUAD to submit proposals for divestment to ACSRI, which will then provide recommendations to the Board of Trustees. Encampment leaders claimed that this process would take around three months, which they stated “isn’t something that’s acceptable.” 

Encampment leaders claimed that since the Tel Aviv Global Center has not opened yet, “[they] can stop it.” 

“After 6 months of protest both on this campus and off this campus, we haven’t had much progress,” leaders argued. “We will be here until Commencement if that’s what it takes,” they said. “We will continue to engage with talks with the University until we get what we want.” 

Organizers also discussed negotiations regarding amnesty for students and faculty. According to Encampment leaders, the University offered conditional amnesty for students based on “probation and attestation.” 

They also stated that they have reached an agreement where private investigators should abide by “current processes” and not enter students’ homes. 

Individuals present at the general assembly meeting then discussed whether or not to “demand open bargaining from the University.” They stated that this “puts more pressure on the University to act a certain way,” but may cause the University to “present” for the media. Overall, members of the assembly wanted to see greater transparency regarding negotiations. Leaders declared that the “University is not flexible right now… What we have to be doing is keep pushing, escalating when they don’t move… Exposing them is very, very, very important.” 

Leaders also explained that people would be calling in from Gaza at midnight, where it is 7 am there.

Update made on Saturday, April 27 at 12:20 am:

Leaked administrative report on GS and Tel Aviv University Dual Degree Program

On Friday evening, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) posted a leaked administrative report on Instagram from the School of General Studies (GS) that detailed alleged discriminatory admissions policies for the Tel Aviv University Dual Degree Program, suspicions of disproportionate financial aid awarded to Tel Aviv Dual Degree students, and reported prejudiced behavior of the Dean of GS. SJP noted that the report “was originally given to high-ranking University officials,” but the “concerned affiliate of the university” remained anonymous. 

The report first addressed “concerns” with the Dual BA Program with Tel Aviv University Lowy International School (TAU), which is “managed predominantly by GS.” The report revealed that almost all of the 30-40 junior and senior students enrolled in the TAU Dual BA Program are Jewish, citing that this contrasts an “official stance” by Columbia GS that the program is “available to all students.” The report questioned whether admissions decisions were “influenced by factors such as students’ identifying information from their applications.”

The report also mentioned that the TAU Dual BA Program’s “demographic composition” is unlike that of the Trinity and Sciences Po Dual BA Programs, which the report states have demonstrated their enrollments to be inclusive across race, religion, and ethnicity. The report iterated that “Tel Aviv University is obligated to adhere to Columbia University’s Non-Discrimination policies” and linked them in the report. 

Citing the Tel Aviv University website, the report also noted that the university itself reports having 16% of its undergraduate student body composed of Israeli Arab students, while the TAU Dual BA Program “appears to have none.” 

The report also addressed “unique barriers” that exist prior to the application process for the TAU Dual BA Program, noting that students who want to transfer from Tel Aviv University to the Dual BA Program “must first obtain mandatory approval from a TAU academic advisor.” The report iterated that all other Columbia Dual BA Programs do not uphold such policies and suggested that this may be “a barrier” for Arab or Muslim students seeking to transfer into the Dual BA Program from Tel Aviv University. In light of this, the report questioned whether the TAU Dual BA Program underwent efforts to make the program “almost exclusively for Jewish students” and whether the program was “in reality… discriminatory and exclusionary.”

The report also raised concerns about financial aid for TAU Dual BA students, who, despite “tend[ing] to have higher family incomes compared to their non-Dual BA peers,” received “substantial financial aid” ranging from $50,000 to $60,000, as compared to their non-Dual Degree peers, who received about $30,000 to $35,000 in aid each year. 

The report noted that these two concerns “[cast] a concerning light on the preferential access and resources given to specific groups within the School of General Studies” and may also “contravene federal civil rights laws.”

The report concluded by addressing concerns about “the behavior and actions” of Dean of the School of General Studies Lisa Rosen-Metsch. The author of the report wrote that they learned Rosen-Metsch had organized official meetings that were exclusive to TAU Dual BA Program students to “discuss the quality” of the program and mentioned that Rosen-Metsch had not organized “similar meetings” for any other Dual BA Programs “in this exclusive manner.”

Update made on Saturday, April 27 at 1:05 am:

SJP posted the last slide missing from the initial post. The report details that during these meetings, Dean Rosen-Metsch attended to TAU students’ specific needs, conveying her support as well as that of “the administration and donors.” Meetings, the report writes, also occurred with GS veterans from the Israeli Defense Forces, “directing them to counter pro-Palestine student activities and to actively disrupt pro-Palestinian advocacy on campus.” Dean Rosen-Metsch is said to promote a pro-Israel stance on GS, thereby fostering an environment of disunity and raising concerns about surveillance and freedom of speech on campus. The report highlights how Dean Rosen-Metsch “is the only dean among Columbia’s 17 schools to be appointed to the Taskforce on Antisemitism,” which due to her alleged aforementioned could lead to unfair practices in favor of certain students, “rais[ing] serious questions about her commitment to fairness and equity” in GS.

President Shafik and senior administrators address NYPD rumors and antisemitism

President Shafik and other senior administrators emailed the Columbia community addressing their hope for a resolution to the ongoing situation. They stated that the NYPD would not be brought on campus and condemned antisemitism. Read here.

Update made on Friday, April 26 at 11:07 pm: CUAD organizer Khymani James banned from campus

According to the New York Times, CUAD organizer Khymani James has been “barred” from campus after a January video of him stating “Zionists don’t deserve to live” resurfaced.

A University spokesperson confirmed to Bwog that James is banned from campus, stating that they cannot comment on disciplinary proceedings at this moment.

Update made on Friday, April 26 at 9:48 pm: Reports of Islamophobic attack at the Senior Boat Cruise

According to a joint statement by SJP and CUAD, last night at the Senior Boat Cruise, several “visibly Muslim, BIPOC, and Arab students had alcoholic drinks poured on their heads, clothes, and belongings.”

According to SJP, the students impacted were “primarily Muslim and BIPOC women.” Alcohol is considered a “forbidden substance to Muslims” and SJP stated that “to pour a religiously forbidden substance on several Muslim women of color is extremely Islamophobic.” The act reportedly left students “viscerally uncomfortable, unsafe, and unprotected.”

SJP wrote that “incidents of Islamophobic, anti-BIPOC, and anti-Arab violence at campus events remain on the rise” and the Administration has “done nothing to ensure BIPOC, Muslim, Arab students safety on campus.” This response also comes after last night’s “United For Israel” protest where individuals were climbing Columbia’s gates. SJP claims that “instead of keeping [students] safe, they have chose[n] to focus on violently shutting down peaceful protests and militarizing our campus.” 

Update made on Friday, April 26 at 7:11 pm: White House statement on viral video

According to Politico, the White House has condemned Khymani James’ statements. Deputy press secretary Andrew Bates stated, “It is hideous to advocate for the murder of Jews. President Biden has been clear that violent rhetoric, hate speech, and antisemitic remarks have no place in America whatsoever, and he will always stand against them.”

Update made on Friday, April 26 at 6:58 pm: University spokesperson Ben Chang’s press conference

Columbia spokesperson Ben Chang held a brief Zoom conference shortly after 5:30 pm to address the recent protests outside of campus, ongoing negotiations, and other updates. 

Chang began by addressing last night’s “United With Israel” protest and noted that Columbia COO Cas Holloway sent an email advising students to clear the area of 116th and Amsterdam shortly before the demonstration’s start. He continued by praising the NYPD and campus security for “keeping everyone safe.” 

President Shafik has remained in talks with several government officials. Chang reiterated that the University is facilitating campus access for government officials who visit.

Next, Chang addressed the recent resolution passed by the University Senate condemning President Shafik and the administration for law enforcement involvement at the Gaza Solidarity Encampment on April 18. He commented that the “administration and Senate share the same goal” to “[restore] calm to campus so everyone can resume their educational activities.” He further commented that the University “appreciate[s] the Senate’s constructive engagement in finding a pathway forward.” 

Chang went on to discuss University negotiations with student protesters, saying the discussions have “shown progress” and “are continuing as planned.” He further claimed that a “formal process” is happening in negotiations between faculty members, University senators, and administrators who have been in talks with protest organizers to “discuss the basis of dismantling the Encampment, dispersing, and following University policies going forward.” CUAD negotiators and organizers seem to disagree with this assessment of the negotiations.

Finally, Chang addressed a viral video of a Columbia student that he described as “alarming and upsetting,” and stressed that calls of violence and statements targeted at individuals based on their religious, national, or ethnic identity are unacceptable and violate University policy.” He emphasized that while the University does not discuss individual cases for students, disciplinary actions are applied when violations against Student Conduct policies occur. He stated that more information about the disciplinary measures will come later this evening.

Campus remains opened only to those with CUID, and members of the press can enter during the 2 pm to 4 pm window.

The Office of the President later sent an email in accordance with Chang’s updates. 

Update made on Friday, April 26 at 6:26 pm: Barnard interim suspension update

Barnard has restored access to dining, classrooms, and residence halls for some students placed on interim suspension after the April 18 arrests at the Gaza Solidarity Encampment.

Update made on Friday, April 26 at 5:44 pm: Lawler and Torres introduce the COLUMBIA Act

On Friday, Congressman Mike Lawler (R-NY) and Ritchie Torres (D-NY) introduced legislation titled the “College Oversight and Legal Updates Mandating Bias Investigations and Accountability Act,” or COLUMBIA Act, calling on the Department of Education to create a “third-party antisemitism monitor” at any college or university receiving federal funding. They suggested the monitor would be “appointed by the Secretary of Education,” and paid for by the college or university they oversaw. If colleges and universities do not comply it would “result in the loss of federal funds.” The legislation would also require colleges and universities to publish “a publicly available online quarterly report” containing actions taken to combat antisemitism on campus and policy recommendations. 

The announcement included a statement from the congressmen. Lawler stated, “If colleges will not step up to protect their students, Congress must act.” Torres spoke of conversations with Jewish students “who feel deeply unsafe,” and urged his colleagues to “join [him] in this crucial action.” 

Both Lawler and Torres are up for re-election this year.

Update made on Friday, April 26 at 5:37 pm: SJP and CUAD statement

At around 4:30 pm, SJP and CUAD released to their Instagram a statement “on opportunists,” which began by condemning the University for “restrict[ing] community access” by closing many campus entrances points and installing Public Safety at available entrances, stating that they “will not mirror the checkpoints and gates of fascist institutions.” The statement then referenced the “Zionists, opportunistic public figures, and hostile admin” who have visited the Gaza Solidarity Encampment, and noted that while SJP “appreciate[s] the support of public figures who stand on the right side of history,” they “will not highlight any politicians’ presences so as to not detract from Gaza.”

The statement called on public figures to “utilize [their] power and position to fight for Palestine” and called the presence in the Encampment of those who are “unwilling to take an anti-Zionist position” and “unwilling to condemn Israel’s genocide… hypocritical and self-serving.” The statement ended by asserting that “the strength of [the Gaza Solidarity Encampment] comes from the Palestinian people,” as well as a call for the University to “disclose” and “divest.”

This statement comes a day after Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) and Jill Stein’s visits to the Encampment, and a few hours after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) and Jamaal Bowman’s (D-NY) visits. Presidential candidate Cornel West had also visited the Encampment. The public statement was passed after a Gaza Solidarity Encampment general assembly vote.

Update made on Friday, April 26 at 2:29 pm: FLI-Net statement

FLI Network (FLI-Net) released a statement today “condemn[ing] the University’s action against students protesting in solidarity with Palestine.”

FLI-Net stated that “Columbia constantly celebrates the diversity of its student body, utilizing FLI Students as examples of tenacity, courage, and strength.” They attested that “when this previously celebrated bravery changes the university, it is met with harsh retribution.”

The statement attested that the evictions that some FLI student organizers received also meant the students were unable to afford housing and had restricted access to food while being one of the “populations most vulnerable to food insecurity.” FLI-Net wrote that suspensions were imposed on students who lack “privileges to rely on if their education is jeopardized.”

FLI-Net stated that justice is taught within the Core Curriculum, “but when it comes to standing against a genocide, Columbia’s actions do not match their ideals. This is why students have taken upon themselves to hold the school accountable; to put into practice what [they] learn in the classroom.”

FLI-Net noted that the identity of FLI students is “inherently political,” asking their fellow FLI students to “stand with the Palestinian people, and also stand with [their] friends and classmates who are organizing on campus.”

“As members of one or multiple marginalized communities, we have a responsibility to stand with oppressed peoples everywhere,” FLI-Net stated, including standing with the “fight for the liberation of Palestinians.”

Update made on Friday, April 26 at 1:06 pm: Reports of an altercation on 116th and Broadway

Bwog reporters passed an altercation taking place on the corner of Broadway and 116th Street. Two individuals argued as a group of bystanders crowded around them with cameras. “Hamas wants to kill the Jews,” the first man shouted. “How many children have been killed [in Gaza]?” another individual responded. The first man continued to repeat his question: “How many children have been killed?” Another woman joined the debate, claiming that the “Health ministry gives us false information” about the number of deaths, asking how people would know the true number of civilian casualties.

Update made on Friday, April 26 at 12:44 pm: Statement from Columbia library workers

Columbia University Library workers released a statement denouncing President Shafik and the Board of Trustees’ decision to allow the NYPD onto campus on Thursday, April 18, to arrest student protesters. The statement read, “These actions stand in clear contradiction to all values espoused by academic institutions, impede us in serving the libraries’ many communities, and undermine core library values of free thought, free expression, and right of access to information that we uphold in our daily work.” As of April 25, there are 59 signatories.

They also mentioned the University’s “hypocrisy” in “promot[ing] itself using archival materials that document its past suppression of student dissent,” referring to a page on the Columbia News website about the 1968 Vietnam War protests, while arresting and suspending current students for “protesting the University’s complicity in the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people.”

The statement ends with an endorsement of CUAD demands, a rejection of “anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, anti-Black racism, anti-semitism, and Islamophobia” and “the conflation of advocacy for Palestinian rights with anti-semitism.” The statement established solidarity with “students, faculty, and staff seeking unfettered access to our libraries, archives, and special collections.”

The statement is still accepting signatures.

Update made on Friday, April 26 at 12:31 pm: New York Hostage And Missing Families Forum press conference and demonstration

At 9:30 am, the New York Hostage and Missing Families Forum held a press conference and demonstration on 116th and Broadway. Read more here.

Update made on Friday, April 26 at 12:27 pm: “United for Israel” protest article

On Thursday evening, a protest titled “United for Israel” took place around the periphery of Columbia’s campus. Protestors lined Broadway and Amsterdam, chanting and marching in support of Israel. Read more here.

Update made on Friday, April 26 at 11:46 am: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman visit the Encampment

At around 11 am, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) visited the Gaza Solidarity Encampment. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) told Bwog, “Any leader who has called in enforcement and violence on folks that are peacefully organizing should be deeply ashamed of themselves. I would imagine a decision like that would follow a person for a very long time.” AOC remarked on how students are “literally just drinking coffee on a lawn,” while Bowman called the Encampment “chill.”

Update made on Friday, April 26 at 10:48 am: Khymani James statement

Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) spokesperson Khymani James released a statement this morning regarding a viral clip posted by @persianjewess on Thursday, April 25. In this video, James is shown on an Instagram Live stating, “Zionists don’t deserve to live [in the] same way we’re very comfortable accepting that Nazis don’t deserve to live.” According to a video commentating on the Instagram live, the video was reportedly sent to coalition JewsInSchool by a family who was “threatened” by James. The video stated that the administration “did nothing” when the family reported James’ statement. The video also claimed that James “may be” the same individual who was seen forming a human chain on Sunday, April 21 to block out individuals recording an Encampment assembly.

On Friday, April 26, James responded to this video via statement on CUAD’s Instagram, where he stated, “What I said was wrong. Every member or our community deserves to feel safe without qualification.” James wrote that this Instagram live was recorded in January.

James stated that he “regret[s]” his words, and attested that when he recorded that video he had “been feeling unusually upset after an online mob targeted me because I am visibly queer and Black.”

CUAD and the Gaza Solidarity Camp stated that James’s words “do not reflect his views, our values, nor the encampment’s community agreements. [CUAD] believes in the sanctity of all life, and believe our work is in changing minds and hearts.  We are students with a right to learn and grow.”

James assured that “Those words do not represent CUAD. They also do not represent me.” He stated that CUAD and the Gaza Solidarity Encampment have assessed his words as not being permitted under the CUAD community guidelines, an assessment he says he agrees with.

James stated that he “wish[ed]” he had said in the video that he “affirm[s] the sanctity of all life and the movement of liberation,” “Zionism is an ideology that necessitates the genocide of Palestinian people. I oppose that in the strongest terms,” and, “All people deserve to be safe from physical harm.”

CUAD and James stated that their focus is about “calling attention to the genocide in Palestine.”

Update made on Friday, April 26 at 1:32 am: Palestinian Youth Movement protest

The Palestinian Youth Movement protest began on 116th and Broadway at around 12:20 am. NYPD correctional buses parked along Broadway, and many sections of the sidewalk were blocked off with metal barricades and caution tape. A group of demonstrators handed out signs and played tambourines, chanting, “Resistance is justified when people are occupied/colonized,” “NYPD KKK IOF they’re all the same,” “Smash the settler Zionist state,” and, “Say it loud and say it clear, liberation is here. Say it clear and say it loud, Gaza you make us proud.”

Large protest attendance was expected in expectation of a potential police sweep of the Encampment after rumors about the possibility circulated today. However, the Encampment remained peaceful, and outside protesters numbered about 50. Barricades were erected on campus, creating a barrier between the 115th and Broadway gates and the end of the walkway onto campus. This was likely constructed due to anticipated protest activity within the campus gates, which did not occur.

Some ACLU protest monitors, whose job is to monitor police conduct, were also in attendance. Around 12:30 am, around 10 to 15 NYPD officers moved protesters from the walkways into barriers. At around 12:40 am, the NYPD Strategic Resource Group arrived. A protest participant stated that the NYPD had threatened arrest. “We are here for the students,” they said. Like many recent demonstrations outside the gates, the protest group is likely not composed of Columbia students, as only CUID holders are allowed onto campus. After taking about five minutes to direct demonstrators to another pen, the Strategic Resource Group left the area in their vans. NYPD in normal gear remained.

Update made on Friday, April 26 at 12:43 am: Encampment general assembly

At 11 pm, another general assembly was held within the Encampment. On tonight’s agenda were negotiation updates, police training in case of violence, and disciplinary “deals” offered to suspended Barnard students. 

Regarding negotiations, assembly leaders explained that the University administration has said there is no longer an increased police threat, but the organizers expressed a lack of trust in what the University told negotiators. The organizers also expressed distrust in the University’s claim that current police presence will be lessened.

In terms of timeframes, it was claimed there will be “no more deadlines.” It is unclear what this statement meant, but at today’s CUAD press conference, it was affirmed there were “no deadlines,” but rather a “timeline.” It was finally said a law enforcement sweep done tonight is highly unlikely, but the negotiators did not obtain this promise from the University in writing. They also explained they believe the Administration is waiting for the protesters to “get bored” and “tired” so their numbers dwindle. In response, the organizers affirmed, “We’re staying the fuck here,” to which the crowd cheered. 

Despite this information regarding the negotiations and deadlines, they reiterated their lack of trust in the administration. They mentioned they’ve started working on training students in the Encampment how to deal with violence and police due to the “increased violent tactics” recently used by police at college campuses around the country. This training was offered to all students involved, regardless of their previously decided “roles.” The Encampment’s first aid team also provided some advice in case of a potential law enforcement sweep, encouraging students to carry an EpiPen, write medication needs on their arms, enter their medical info on the health app, and not wear contacts ahead of a sweep in case of pepper spray usage. 

Finally, they brought up recent communications from the administration to students regarding disciplinary proceedings. As they stated, Barnard students were offered the removal of disciplinary offenses from their records if “they agree to never protest again,” to which the crowd booed. This agreement was also only offered to those with no previous offenses. According to the organizers, this deal is also on the table for Columbia students, but it is still being discussed. 

Update made on Friday, April 26 at 12:20 am: Barnard SGA statement

Late Thursday evening, the Barnard Student Government Association (SGA) released a statement via Instagram condemning the recent increase in Islamophobia many Muslim students have experienced on campus. This statement comes nine days after the establishment of the Gaza Solidarity Encampment. 

In the statement, which the organization acknowledged “[came] far too late,” the SGA Executive Board criticized the College’s failure to “address the suffering and discrimination faced by Muslim students,” pointing to the lack of acknowledgment and recognition of the Muslim experience in official communications from the College administration. 

The statement cited “incidents of racial profiling” by “NYPD officers… on campus”, as well as “doxxing” and “harassment,” claiming that the University had failed to recognize or take action against them. SGA pointed out Barnard administration’s failure to recognize the “30,000+ Palestinians killed and the million more displaced,” which has “discouraged Muslim, Arab, and brown students” from reporting discriminatory behavior. They stated that this created a cyclical effect that has allowed the administration to “deny” the occurrence of these incidents.

SGA’s statement expressed that “our campus should be a sanctuary for all students,” and for differences to be celebrated rather than targeted. The statement emphasized the importance for College administration to recognize instances of Islamophobia and take “concrete steps” to tackle this “systemic issue.” Barnard SGA urges both Barnard and Columbia to set up “culturally competent structural mechanisms” for Arab and Muslim students to come forward with the discrimination they experience. 

Barnard SGA stressed the importance for “the Muslim community at Barnard” to be able to “exist without fear” and receive support from the administration. They highlighted their commitment to maintaining “anti-racist and anti-oppression ideals,” despite their claim that “the current administration does not.” The statement concluded by encouraging their “Muslim, Arab, and brown peers” to report any incidents of harassment and discrimination and offered their commitment to make the reporting process “better.” 

Campus and Encampment via Alison Hog