Columbia president calls last 2 weeks ‘among the most difficult’ in school's history amid anti-Israel protests

Columbia University’s embattled President Minouche Shafik on Friday called the last two weeks “among the most difficult in Columbia’s history,” as anti-Israel protests continue to rage on the New York City campus. 

Shafik, speaking publicly for the first time about the long-running demonstrations that have taken over the campus since police cleared an occupied campus building in a video message posted to the university’s social media, said the “turmoil, tension, division and disruption have impacted the entire community.”

She noted that the students have “paid an especially high price” by losing out on the final days of the year in classrooms and residence halls — “For those of you who are seniors, you’re finishing college the same way you started: online.”

She continued, “No matter where you stand on any issue, Columbia should be a community that feels welcoming and safe for everyone.” 


Speaker of the House Mike Johnson leaves Columbia University in New York City

Columbia University president Minouche Shafik spoke about the “difficult” last two weeks in a video speech on Thursday.  (Fox News Digital)

Shafik’s speech came days after police raided the university’s Hamilton Hall administration building after it was illegally occupied by protesters. 

“We tried very hard to resolve the issue of the encampment through dialogue,” she said. “Many of the people who gathered there were largely peaceful and cared deeply about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” 

The president said that the university made a “sincere and good offer, but it was not accepted,” along with academic leaders talking with the protesters for eight days and nights. 


She said that a group of protesters “crossed a new line” with the occupation of Hamilton Hall last that was a “violent act that put our students at risk as well as putting the protesters at risk.”

Seeing the damage the rioters caused as she walked through the building that holds classics, Germanic and Slavic language classes, was “distressing,” she said. 

“But, despite all that has happened, I have confidence. During the listening sessions I held with many students in recent months, I’ve been heartened by your intelligence, thoughtfulness and kindness.” 

She said she was most impressed by those were able to acknowledge those opposing them had “some valid points. We need more of that at Columbia,” noting that “parallel realities and parallel conversations have walled us off from other perspectives.” 

A student protester parades a Palestinian flag outside the entrance to Hamilton Hall on the campus of Columbia University

An anti-Israel protester holds a Palestinian flag outside the entrance to Hamilton Hall on the campus of Columbia University, April 30, in New York City.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer/Pool)

Shafik was born in Egypt and grew up in a Muslim family, noting in her address Friday that she had “many Jewish and Christian friends” growing up. “I spent two decades working with international organizations with people from every nationality and religion in the world, where if you can’t bridge divides and see the other side’s point of view, you can’t get anything done.” 

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, antisemitism and Islamophobia have all existed for a long time,” she noted, adding that Columbia “cannot solve them single-handedly.” 

But she said Columbia could be an example to the world of civil discourse and having “empathy and compassion for one another.” 

“We have a lot to do, but I am committed to working at it every day and with each of you to rebuild community on our campus,” she closed. 

Shafik has faced calls to resign and on Thursday, a Columbia faculty group called for a vote of no confidence against Shafik.

Fox News Digital’s Louis Casiano contributed to this report. 

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