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Columbia cancels in-person classes due to pro-Palestinian protests

Classes are to be held virtually on Zoom for Columbia University students amid pro-Palestinian protests on campus. As students fight for their voices to be heard, the administration is expressing concern about the “disruption.” Columbia President Minouche Shafik said in a note addressed to the school community Monday that she was “deeply saddened” by what was happening on campus. “To deescalate the rancor and give us all a chance to consider next steps, I am announcing that all classes will be held virtually on Monday,” Shafik said. She said faculty and staff should work remotely, when possible, and that students who don’t live on campus should avoid the area.

Last week, police arrested more than 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators at Columbia who had set up an encampment on the New York City campus. Shafik said the “Middle East conflict” is terrible and that she understands that many are experiencing deep moral distress. “But we cannot have one group dictate terms and attempt to disrupt important milestones like graduation to advance their point of view,” Shafik wrote. On Sunday, a rabbi at Columbia sent a WhatsApp message to more than 200 Jewish students, urging them to leave the New York City campus if they did not feel safe.

Tensions on university campuses have been high over the past six months, with students protesting Israel’s war in Gaza and the humanitarian crisis. The situation at Columbia escalated last week when students set up a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” on campus to protest ongoing military action in Gaza that has resulted in countless deaths.

“This mass action was organized by the student-led coalition Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), & Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) to protest Columbia University’s continued financial investment in corporations that profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and occupation in Palestine,” CUAD said in a press release.

As of Wednesday, at least 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, the Associated Press reported, per the Israeli government. More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, per the Gaza Health Ministry, according to the outlet. Student protesters are calling for a permanent cease-fire and more aid to be sent to Gaza, which is currently experiencing a deadly famine.

Over the coming days, a working group of deans, school administrators, and faculty will try to find a resolution to the university crisis, noted Shafik, who did not say when in-person classes would resume.

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