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Preparation begins for US colleges as more than 2,000 people arrested in protests: Live updates

5:58 PM ET, May 3, 2024

The president of Columbia University says she will work every day to rebuild after two difficult weeks

From CNN’s Michelle Watson and Gloria Pazmino



Minouche Shafik, president of Columbia University, prepares to testify before the House Education and Workforce Committee during a hearing on Columbia University’s response to anti-Semitism in Washington, DC, on April 17.

Francis Chung/POLITICO/AP/File

The group of protesters who occupied Hamilton Hall on the campus of Columbia University “crossed a new line,” President Minouche Shafik said. said in a video message released on X Friday.

Shafik called the past two weeks on campus “one of the most difficult in Columbia history.”

“The unrest and tension, division and disruption have affected the entire community,” Shafik said in the message, which lasted just over three minutes.

Students at Columbia University “paid a particularly high price” as a result of the protests, she said.

“You have lost your last days in the classroom and the residence halls. For those of you who are seniors, you will complete college the way you started, online,” Shafik said

The university has tried several times to find a solution through dialogue, Shafik said.

“Academic leaders spent eight days and nights talking to students,” she said. “(The) University made a sincere and good offer, but it was not accepted.”

While many of the protesters on campus were mostly peaceful and “deeply concerned,” Shafik said the group that occupied Hamilton Hall “crossed a new line.”

Shafik called the occupation a “violent act” that affected the safety of students.

“Each of us has a role to play in restoring the values ​​of truth and civil discourse that polarization has seriously damaged. Here at Columbia, parallel realities and parallel conversations have closed us off from other perspectives,” Shafik said.

Shafik said she was born in the Middle East “into a Muslim family with many Jewish and Christian friends.” Through her two decades of international work, Shafik said she realized that “people can disagree and still make progress.”

“The issues that challenge us, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, anti-Semitism and anti-Arab and anti-Islamic prejudices have existed for a long time,” Shafik said. “And Columbia, while a remarkable institution, cannot solve these problems alone.”

Shafik urged students to be an example of a better world, one where people who disagree “do so in a civil manner.”

“We have a lot to do, but I am committed to working every day and working with all of you to rebuild the community on our campus.”