Protesters at Columbia University
Protesters at Columbia UniversityREUTERS/Caitlin Ochs

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik published a letter to students today (Wednesday) following the removal of the anti-Israel protesters who took over Hamilton Hall on Tuesday morning and were removed by police on Tuesday night in which she revealed that the university administration had been willing to consider the protesters' demands, including divestment from Israel.

"Early Tuesday morning, tensions on our campus rose to new heights when a small group of protestors broke into Hamilton Hall, barricaded themselves inside, and occupied it throughout the day. This drastic escalation of many months of protest activity pushed the University to the brink, creating a disruptive environment for everyone and raising safety risks to an intolerable level," Shafik's message began.

"I know I speak for many members of our community in saying that this turn of events has filled me with deep sadness. I am sorry we reached this point," she said.

Shafik said that during talks between the administration and protesters, "the University offered to consider new proposals on divestment and shareholder activism, to review access to our dual degree programs and global centers, to reaffirm our commitment to free speech, and to launch educational and health programs in Gaza and the West Bank. Some other universities have achieved agreement on similar proposals."

Despite the violence, hate, and calls for the murder of Jews displayed at the anti-Israel protests on the Columbia campus over the last two weeks, Shafik said that the protesters "are also fighting for an important cause, for the rights of Palestinians and against the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza. They have many supporters in our community and have a right to express their views and engage in peaceful protest."

She added, "We also must continue with urgency our ongoing dialogue on the important issues that have been raised in recent months, especially the balance between free speech and discrimination and the role of a university in contributing to better outcomes in the Middle East."

Nearly 282 individuals were arrested overnight at CCNY and Columbia after the NYPD was called on to clear out anti-Israel protesters who had been occupying the campuses. According to the NYPD, 173 individuals were arrested at The City College of New York and 109 at Columbia University. It is unclear how many of those were students, faculty, or individuals not affiliated with the schools.

The anti-Israel protest encampments that began at Columbia University have spread to campuses across the country. Overnight at UCLA in California, counterprotesters clashed with anti-Israel demonstrators, with the former attempting to dismantle the protest encampment.

The current wave of anti-Israel protests began with the erection of a tent city on the campus of Columbia University on April 17, and quickly spread to other colleges across the nation.

One of the organizers of the Columbia protests was recorded on video saying “Zionists – they don’t deserve to live comfortably, let alone Zionists don’t deserve to live. The same way we’re very comfortable accepting that Nazis don’t deserve to live, racists don’t deserve to live – Zionists, they shouldn’t live in this world.”

During the protests at Columbia, protesters threatened Jews with "10,000" October 7 massacres, chanted "we are Hamas," and held signs pointing at Jewish students calling on Hamas to make them the terrorist organization's next targets.

An Orthodox rabbi at Columbia warned Jewish students to stay away from campus for their own safety during the protests.

Professor Shai Davidai, an Israel-born Columbia University professor, has been standing up to the anti-Israel mobs on campus. After he was blocked from campus on Monday, Davidi wrote a post addressing Columbia COO Cas Holloway.

"You were just doing your job when you denied a Jewish professor access to campus (by the way, all I wanted to do was to read the names of the 133 hostages, thanks for asking)," Davidi wrote to Holloway.

He continued: "You were just doing your job when you sided with those that support Hamas."

"You were just doing your job when you couldn't say for a full minute whether Hamas is a terrorist organization. (remember that meeting? It's all recorded. You were just doing your job)," Davidi said.