Columbia University to Open New Global Center in Israel, Plans Draw Strong Criticism

United States North America Higher Education News by Erudera News Apr 06, 2023

Columbia University library

Columbia University has announced its plans to open a new center in Tel Aviv, Israel to expand its existing partnerships in the country. These plans have sparked campus controversy, with some faculty supporting the proposal and others opposing it.

95 professors publicly expressed their stance against the center, signing an open letter opposing these plans, The New York Times reports. They have raised concerns about academic freedom and approval of policies of the government’s coalition with far-right parties, which has put forward judicial reforms, changes that have led to protests throughout the country.

“The state of Israel, through formal and informal law, policy and practice, refuses to abide by international human rights laws and norms both domestically and in its treatment of Palestinians,” the letter reads.

On the other hand, another faculty letter supporting the proposal has received 172 signatures, saying that the center does not have to do with the country’s politics and that many of them (faculty) don’t support the current government’s policies.

It is still unknown when the Tel Aviv center will open, which according to school officials, will prioritize topics such as climate change, technology and entrepreneurship, arts and the humanities, science, public health, and medicine. Learning and research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students are said to be another focus of the center, reports.

In a statement announcing plans to launch the center, Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger said that the Global Centers program created 14 years ago has become crucial to the university’s role to connect with the world and offer opportunities to students, faculty, and alumni to collaborate with their fellows worldwide.

“I am deeply proud of how the Columbia Global Centers have evolved and grown, each with its own distinctive features and priorities and together as a vibrant network advancing Columbia’s mission and values,” Bollinger said, highlighting the importance for Colombia to continue making efforts in advancing inquiry and learning across the globe.

In its media release issued on April 3, 2023, the university said that the new center will join Columbia’s ten other centers in cities, including Athens, Beijing, Istanbul, Mumbai, Nairobi, Paris, and Rio de Janeiro.

The Ivy League university added that the new hub would be similar to the abovementioned and also serve as a gathering space for individuals and institutions to connect. Additionally, the intention is to bring the alumni community in Israel closer to the university.

Columbia University is an Ivy League school in New York City that was founded in 1754. In 2020, it enrolled more than 8,000 undergraduate students and has an acceptance rate of six percent.

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