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Columbia Administration, Student Organizers Talks Fail

Columbia University administration leaders and student organizers failed to reach agreement in negotiations that might have included the university’s divestment from Israel.

Dr. Minouche ShafikDr. Minouche Shafik“Regretfully, we were not able to come to an agreement,” wrote Columbia University President Dr. Minouche Shafik in a letter to fellow members of the Columbia community. She said the two parties failed “to find a path that would result in the dismantling of the encampment and adherence to University policies going forward.”

Shafik reiterated in the letter that the university will not divest from Israel, which is at the heart of protests, in part, calling for a ceasefire in the war-torn region. She said the university offered to develop an expedited timeline for review of new proposals from the students by the university’s advisory committee for socially responsible investing, which is the body that considers divestment matters.

As several students and faculty members have continued various expressions of dissent on campus, the university administration alleged the protestors’ encampment has created an unwelcoming environment for many of Jewish students and faculty. Shafik said the hostile environment violates Title VI (of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance).

“Consistent with our interim demonstration policies, after reading days, exams, and Commencement, protests may continue on campus by application with two-days’ notice in authorized locations,” Shafik said. “We have no intention of suppressing speech or the right to peaceful protest.”

Shafik said the university plans to hold its spring commencement and urged “those in the encampment to voluntarily disperse” to allow families and friends of participate in the university’s May 15 graduation ceremonies.

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