Morningside Campus Update

April 23, 2024

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

Nearly four days ago, the West Lawn of the Morningside campus was turned into an encampment by hundreds of student activists. I fully support the importance of free speech, respect the right to demonstrate, and recognize that many of the protestors have gathered peacefully. However, the encampment raises serious safety concerns, disrupts campus life, and has created a tense and at times hostile environment for many members of our community. It is essential that we move forward with a plan to dismantle it.

For several days, a small group of faculty, administrators, and University Senators have been in dialogue with student organizers to discuss the basis for dismantling the encampment, dispersing, and following university policies going forward. Those talks are facing a deadline of midnight tonight to reach agreement.

I very much hope these discussions are successful. If they are not, we will have to consider alternative options for clearing the West Lawn and restoring calm to campus so that students can complete the term and graduate. I am deeply sensitive to the fact that graduating seniors spent their first year attending Columbia remotely. We all very much want these students to celebrate their well-deserved graduation with family and friends.

I also want to be clear that we will not tolerate intimidating, harassing, or discriminatory behavior. We are working to identify protestors who violated our policies against discrimination and harassment, and they will be put through appropriate disciplinary processes. The right to protest is essential and protected at Columbia, but harassment and discrimination is antithetical to our values and an affront to our commitment to be a community of mutual respect and kindness.

I am grateful for the support of City and State officials in managing this crisis, which has drawn a large volume of outside protestors around our perimeter, exacerbating security concerns and producing much of the incendiary language that is causing deep distress for many in our community.

We will provide further updates tomorrow.


Minouche Shafik
President, Columbia University in the City of New York