Apartheid divestment protests

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During the 1970s and 80s, students held numerous protests against South Africa's discriminatory policy of apartheid. Their aim was to get the university to divest from South Africa, helping to place economic pressure on the government there to end the policy.

1978 protests

Initial protests took place in 1978, following a successful movement against the endowment of a chair for former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. The 1978 protesters constituted a broad coalition of students and faculty, who held numerous sit- and teach-ins throughout the year. A takeover of the Business School late in the year prompted Columbia's initial divestment, from stocks and bonds directly associated with the South African government.

1985 protests

After a wave of black resistance in South Africa in 1984, interest resumed in pressing for full university divestment in South Africa, and a new series of protests culminated in a takeover of Hamilton Hall in April, 1985, an occurrence that has taken place during almost every major Columbia protest. A tent city was also set up, an event which was repeated during the 2007 hunger strike. Columbia's movement was highly publicized and inspired other university and high school students, as well as celebrities, to join the anti-apartheid movement in the U.S.

The protest ended when Columbia got an injunction to remove student occupiers from Hamilton - and because finals week was fast approaching. Although Columbia agreed to divest in the aftermath, it did not fully do so until 1991, when talks to end the apartheid regime were already well underway.

A drive to get Columbia to divest from Israel, which activists have accused of apartheid-like policies against Palestinians, has been underway during the 2000s.

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