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University President Denies Columbia has an Antisemitism Problem

'We condemn the antisemitism that is so pervasive today,' said President Minouche Shafik

University President Denies Columbia has an Antisemitism Problem

The president of Columbia University denied that the school is struggling to deal with ethnic and racial tensions on campus while appearing before Congress.

Minouche Shafik has been accused of allowing the Ivy League school to become overrun by hate in the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

“We condemn the antisemitism that is so pervasive today,” said Shafik during her opening statement on April 17, per AP News. “Antisemitism has no place on our campus, and I am personally committed to doing everything I can to confront it directly.”

The college president was originally called to appear before the House Education and Workforce Committee in December but declined due to a scheduling conflict. She thereby narrowly avoided becoming entangled in the widespread outrage sparked by remarks made by the presidents of Havard University, University of Pennsylvania, and MIT during that hearing.

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York pressed the administrators to say if calling for the genocide of Jewish people would be a violation of their school’s code of conduct. The schools’ presidents struggled to answer definitively and affirmatively.

“If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment,” said University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill. “It is a context-dependent decision."

Magill resigned within weeks of making her statements following calls from other leaders as well as students at the school.

“It can be, depending on the context," said Harvard University President Claudine Gay. Although the university initially voted to keep Gay in her role, she ultimately resigned in January. 

“She failed to stand up for Jewish students on campus who have been facing antisemitic attacks, who have been facing physical assault," Stefanik said of Gay’s resignation during an interview on NBC News. "We’ve seen that footage. We’ve heard that directly from students on campus."

Sally Kornbluth, the president of MIT, also faced calls for her resignation but never vacated her position.

Columbia has attempted to manage tensions between Jewish students and students who support Palestine. In November, the school suspended two student organizations – Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace – after an on-campus protest included “threatening rhetoric and intimidation.”

This decision was made after the two groups repeatedly violated University policies related to holding campus events,” said Gerald Rosberg, the senior executive vice president of the university and chair of its special committee on campus safety, in a statement.

Shafik published a detailed explanation of the statement she expected to make to Congress on April 16. 

For the thousands of Jewish and Israeli members of our community, the attack had a deep personal impact. … Not surprisingly, passions ran deep, demonstrations erupted, feelings were hurt, some members of our community were frightened and many more were concerned,” she said in the article. “As president of the university, my immediate responsibility was to ensure the physical safety and security of our community.

Shafik said that most of the students, faculty and staff at Columbia “understood this priority, welcomed it” and helped keep the campus safe.

“A more complicated issue was the conflict between the free-speech rights of pro-Palestinian protesters and the impact that these protests were having on our Jewish students and their supporters,” she continued. “Despite the intense upheaval of the last six months, this larger truth should not be lost. Antisemitism has been with us for thousands of years, and we must forcefully and relentlessly reject its current resurgence.”

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