Columbia University Goes Remote-Only Amid Pro-Palestinian Protests

United States North America Higher Education News by Erudera News Apr 22, 2024

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Columbia University has said early Monday that it is making a switch to remote-only classes following protests on campus over Israel’s war in Gaza, which have been going on for six days now.

While announcing the decision through a statement released on Monday, President of Columbia University Minouche Shafik, said the university was taking action to address safety concerns raised by students on campus, reports.

“The decibel of our disagreements has only increased in recent days. These tensions have been exploited and amplified by individuals who are not affiliated with Columbia who have come to campus to pursue their own agendas. We need a reset,” she said.

Shafik said there has been intimidating and harassing behavior on campus over the past few days and condemned antisemitic language and any other language used to spread fear among Columbia's community. However, protesting students denied these claims, saying that their protests have not been antisemitic but peaceful and inclusive.

“To deescalate the rancor and give us all a chance to consider next steps, I am announcing that all classes will be held virtually on Monday. Faculty and staff who can work remotely should do so; essential personnel should report to work according to university policy. Our preference is that students who do not live on campus will not come to campus,” she wrote, calling on individuals to report incidents.

This change comes a few days after many students were arrested and suspended at New York’s Columbia for being involved in a protest encampment on the campus lawn, aimed to urge the university to cut ties with companies associated with Israel.

Local media reports say that tensions have increased after more than 100 people have been arrested since protests began last Wednesday across the university’s campus. On Wednesday, Shafik testified in a hearing about Columbia’s response to antisemitic incidents on campus after October 7, 2023, and mentioned the punishment of faculty and staff involved.

Several Jewish student groups have started legal actions against the university and other higher education institutions, claiming inadequate response to antisemitism on campus. At the same time, some Palestinian students have expressed worries about Islamophobia.

Controversies related to protests on Israel’s war in Gaza have led to Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania presidents resigning from their posts.

In her recent statement, Shafik said that faculty, a working group of deans and university administrators, will work to solve the crisis by continuing discussions with students participating in protests and identifying actions that will allow the term to be completed peacefully.

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