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Columbia threatens student protesters occupying building with expulsion

By AFP

May 1, 2024 12:37 AM


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Columbia University said Tuesday that students occupying a campus building as part of pro-Palestinian protests face being expelled from their academic programs, the latest move in a standoff with school officials.

"Students occupying the building face expulsion," Columbia's office of public affairs said in a statement, adding that the protesters were provided "the opportunity to leave peacefully" but instead declined and escalated the situation.

The prestigious school in New York City, which had already begun temporarily suspending students who refused to comply with dispersal orders, said it had been "very clear" that it will not tolerate repeated interruptions by protesters violating campus rules.

"Continuing to do so will be met with clear consequences. Protesters have chosen to escalate to an untenable situation -- vandalizing property, breaking doors and windows, and blockading entrances -- and we are following through with the consequences we outlined yesterday," university spokesperson Ben Chang said in the statement.

Protests against the Gaza war, with its high Palestinian civilian death toll, have posed a challenge to university administrators trying to balance free speech rights with complaints that the rallies have veered into anti-Semitism and hate.

The unrest has swept through US higher education institutions like wildfire, with many student protesters erecting tent encampments on campus grounds from Connecticut to Texas to California after around 100 protesters were first arrested at Columbia on April 18.

Columbia said its threat of expulsion and other responses were aimed at the actions of the protesters, and not at their cause.

Masked individuals smashed windows and blocked doors with metal tables early Tuesday after administrators began suspending protesting students.

"As we said yesterday, disruptions on campus have created a threatening environment for many of our Jewish students and faculty and a noisy distraction that interferes with teaching, learning, and preparing for final exams, and contributes to a hostile environment in violation of Title VI," Chang said, referring to the code which protects students from discrimination or harassment.

The White House has sharply criticized the seizure of the building. The Republican Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, branded the protests "terrorism" and called for the resignation of Columbia University's president, Minouche Shafik.


AFP


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