Columbia suspends pro-Palestinian students after talks stall

University President says days of negotiations between student organizers and academic leaders have failed.

NEW YORK (Reuters): Columbia University on Monday began suspending pro-Palestinian student activists who refused to dismantle a protest camp on the New York City campus after the Ivy League school declared a stalemate in talks seeking to end the polarizing demonstration.

University President Nemat Minouche Shafik said in a statement that days of negotiations between student organizers and academic leaders had failed to persuade demonstrators to remove the dozens of tents set up to express opposition to Israel’s war in Gaza.

The crackdown at Columbia, at the center of Gaza-related protests roiling university campuses across the U.S. in recent weeks, occurred as police at the University of Texas at Austin arrested dozens of students whom they doused with pepper spray at a pro-Palestinian rally.

Columbia sent a letter on Monday morning warning that students who did not vacate the encampment by 2 p.m. ET and sign a form promising to abide by university policies would face suspension and become ineligible to complete the semester in good standing.

“We have begun suspending students as part of this next phase of our efforts to ensure safety on our campus,” said Ben Chang, a university spokesperson, at a briefing on Monday evening.

“The encampment has created an unwelcoming environment for many of our Jewish students and faculty and a noisy distraction that interferes with the teaching, learning and preparing for final exams,” Chang said.

Earlier, Shafik said Columbia would not divest from finances in Israel, a key demand of the protesters. Instead, she offered to invest in health and education in Gaza and make Columbia’s direct investment holdings more transparent.

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