What We Know About the Protests at Columbia University

Columbia University is grappling with the fallout from its president’s promise to Congress that she would crack down on unsanctioned protests, and her decision to ask the police to clear an encampment on campus.

Demonstrations just outside Columbia’s gates, which are currently closed to the public, took an especially dark tone over the weekend, when protesters who did not appear to be connected to the university were accused of celebrating Hamas and targeting Jewish students.

“The decibel of our disagreements has only increased in recent days,” Nemat Shafik, Columbia’s president, said in a statement early Monday. “These tensions have been exploited and amplified by individuals who are not affiliated with Columbia who have come to campus to pursue their own agendas. We need a reset.”

All classes on Monday would be held virtually, Dr. Shafik said, and university officials urged students to stay away from the campus in Upper Manhattan if they did not live on it.

How Columbia got here

Since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel, American college campuses have been hubs of protest and debate. The scene at Columbia has been particularly contentious, with protests drawing hundreds of demonstrators, and some faculty members drawing attention for statements that critics considered to be antisemitic.

Columbia administrators, like their counterparts on campuses across the country, have struggled to fine-tune a response that balances discipline, free speech and institutional and national politics. For example, Columbia suspended two pro-Palestinian student groups after a walkout, and it has rewritten its protest policies, suspended some students and moved to cut or reduce ties to some faculty members.

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