Columbia extends deadline for accord with pro-Palestinian protesters

Columbia extends deadline for accord with pro-Palestinian protesters

NEW YORK -- Columbia University appears to have extended the deadline for pro-Palestinian protesters to remove their encampment from the university's main lawn, as talks continued overnight between students and school administrators.

Early Wednesday morning, NYPD officers in riot gear cleared out a group of about 100 protesters just outside campus. They were chanting, waving flags and holding signs in solidarity with the students. At least one person was arrested.

University President Minouche Shafik issued a midnight deadline for demonstrators to reach an agreement about dispersing and dismantling their encampment, but the university announced early Wednesday it was extending the deadline for 48 hours.

In a letter emailed earlier to the school community, Shafik had said student organizers were meeting with a group of faculty, administrators and University Senators.

Shafik said, "Those talks are facing a deadline of midnight [Tuesday] to reach agreement. 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 school president cited safety concerns, disruptions to campus life and a tense "and at times hostile" environment for the school community.

Shafik also said her staff was working to identify and discipline any students who have been discriminatory or harassing people.

But a group called Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine said in a news release early Wednesday that they'd broken off the talks with school officials because Columbia was "refusing to bargain in good faith" and was threatening to ask for National Guard troops and NYPD officers. The group said it wouldn't return to the table until the threat was rescinded.

"We refuse to concede to cowardly threats and blatant intimidation by university administration. We will continue to peacefully protest," the group said.

Around midnight, students could be seen taking down and moving some tents that had been erected on the lawn, but it wasn't immediately clear how many would clear out.

The Columbia student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, reported that at about midnight, a demonstrator announced on campus that the school had extended the negotiation deadline to 8 a.m. and that "we are not under any imminent threat at least until 8 a.m." The paper said a spokesperson for the school declined to comment to it about the deadline or the protest group's statement.

An NYPD spokesperson couldn't confirm or deny to the newspaper whether the school had requested an NYPD presence on campus. And the paper reports that New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday she didn't plan at that time to deploy National Guard troops. She is the one who would have to give those orders.

For its part, a university spokesperson said in a statement early Wednesday that the school was "making important progress with representatives of the student encampment on the West lawn," adding that the protesters "have committed to dismantling and removing a significant number of tents" and said they would "ensure that those not affiliated with Columbia will leave. Only Columbia University students will be participating in the protest."

The spokesperson also said the "student protesters have taken steps to make the encampment welcome to all and have prohibited discriminatory or harassing language."

"In light of this constructive dialogue, the university will continue conversations for the next 48 hours," the school said.

Demonstrators gather outside President Shafik's home

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators say they want Columbia University to cut financial ties with Israel.

Some protesters who attend Barnard College held a news conference Tuesday in front of Shafik's home to drive home the point.

"I speak during Passover to talk about bravery of our people," a student named Soph said. "When I was marched out of encampment in zip ties, I didn't flinch. I can't remain complacent."

Three of the students who were in attendance are Jewish. They said they've been suspended indefinitely. Columbia has not released any information on disciplinary action.

"Our university profits off this. We won't stop until they divest," Sarah Borus added. "I've never been more proud to be Jewish than when I was arrested and taken off campus."

Meanwhile, two members of the encampment at Columbia said the group is in talks with the university, and wouldn't back down until its demands are met.

"We stand in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza who are facing genocide," one said.

Students describe "disheartening" situation on Columbia campus

Chopper 2 flew over Columbia's South Lawn early Tuesday morning, where pro-Palestinian demonstrators camped out in tents overnight. The demonstration started last Wednesday and was in its seventh day.

Columbia switched to remote learning Monday to deescalate tensions on campus, as Jewish students have reported feeling unsafe, especially during the Passover holiday.

School officials say all classes on the Morningside campus will offer a hybrid option for the rest of the semester, which ends Monday.

"Safety is our highest priority as we strive to support our students' learning and all the required academic operations," the Office of the Provost posted online. "It's vital that teaching and learning continue during this time."

Campus access has been restricted, and officers remain stationed outside several entrances. Students who opted to attend in-person Tuesday said the situation is making it difficult to focus on their upcoming exams.

"It is pretty disheartening to see all this on campus, I will say. I think a lot of people are misguided. And at the same time, I'm kind of confused because, I mean, being here at Columbia, I mean I have so much work and I know a lot of these students do, as well," junior Michael D'Agostino said. "I have a part-time job, I wouldn't be able to be in this long, not making money and keeping up with my studies."

"It's obviously devastating to see so many students getting hurt and being arrested," sophomore Rony Yin added.

Others are feeling the impact the protests have had beyond campus.

"They have inspired a lot of other people to take more action or perhaps change actions they've been taking to draw more attention to the situation that's happening in Palestine, in Gaza," said Carla Reyes, a non-student protester.

Some protesters have joined the calls for Shafik to resign, while others worry whoever replaces her would take more aggressive action. In her latest statement to students and staff, the president wrote, "Let's sit down and talk and argue and find ways to compromise on solutions."

"I understand how important this is. Young people in particular are energized by their beliefs, but we have to have respectful discourse. This has gone too far," Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

Mayor Eric Adams is applauding the NYPD for its response and says students who protest peacefully are not the problem.

"We can't have outside agitators come in and be destructive to our city," he said.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani drove by Columbia on Tuesday, putting in his two cents to condemn the demonstrators.

"I feel that we have declined to a state of absurdity when we have these ignorant people who are supporting killers," Giuliani said.

"I wish there was an easy answer"

The semester at Columbia, which many have described as heartbreaking, will come to an end on Monday.

"I wish there was an easy answer and I feel like it's so complicated and, to be honest, I feel heartbroken about all of it," said Julia Dillon, who works nearby.

As tensions continue to boil over, freshman Daniella Davis says she regrets staying on campus this week during Passover.

"There's no one left on our floor. There are six of us left, which is a weird feeling, and it's supposed to be a more joyous time around Pesach, and we're all celebrating together, but that hasn't really been the case," she said.

"I was supposed to be in Israel on Oct. 10, performing a show, so my whole life got sidetracked," Israeli-American rapper Rami Even-Esh said.

Even-Esh is not a student at Columbia, but he said he has been going there for month to document the protests.

When asked what the biggest misunderstanding is right now, Even-Esh said, "Two things could be true at one time. Like, I'm very pro-Israeli, or Israeli, and I also have a lot of sympathy for Palestinian people. I have friends who lost a lot of family in Gaza."

Columbia University has one of the most esteemed journalism schools in the country. CBS New York's Ali Bauman spoke to student journalists at the school newspaper, Columbia Spectator, about attending classes while covering this ongoing situation.

"I think it's been an intense, intense time to be a student on this campus, to watch the nation's leaders comment on what's going on as we're living and going to classes in our campus," said Esha Karam, managing editor of the Columbia Spectator. "Who knows what's gonna come next in terms of, as finals approach and also as commencement approaches. The university is starting to set up commencement stands and stuff on the opposing lawn where protests originally set up tents, and soon we'll see what the next steps are in terms of preparing for those activities as well."

Commencement is scheduled for May 15.

CBS New York has learned that Wednesday, House Speaker Mike Johnson is expected to visit Columbia University to meet with Jewish students and hold a press conference addressing antisemitism on college campuses.

Eric Church talks new Nashville bar and residency

"Blind trust": Widow's $1.5 million romance scam story serves as cautionary tale

U.K. passes law to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda