Columbia University is colluding with the far-right in its attack on students

Columbia University is colluding with the far-right in its attack on students

Moira Donegan writes:

The students sat on the ground and sang as police in riot gear approached them. Eventually, more than 100 of them would be arrested; their tents, protest signs and Palestinian flags were gathered into trash bags by the police and thrown away. One video showed officers and university maintenance workers destroying food that had been donated to the encampment, making sure it would be inedible. According to student journalists reporting from WKCR, Columbia University’s student radio station, one arrested student protester asked the police to be allowed to go to their dorm to collect medication and was denied; as a result, they went into shock. The arrested students were charged with “trespassing” on the campus that they are charged more than $60,000 a year to attend.

The day before her administration asked the New York police department to storm their campus and arrest their students, Minouche Shafik, the Columbia University president, testified before Congress, saying that she wanted her university to be a safe and welcoming environment for everyone. But Shafik, who was called to testify after missing a hearing last year where the presidents of Penn and Harvard were each grilled on their insufficient hostility to pro-Palestinian students, appeared eager to please the Republican-controlled committee. The Penn and Harvard presidents who had testified each lost their jobs soon thereafter; Shafik clearly entered the hearing room determined to keep her own.

To that end, she made only tepid defenses of academic freedom, instead favoring wholehearted condemnations of the protesters, assents to bad-faith mischaracterizations of the students as antisemitic and genocidal, and public, apparently on-the-spot, personnel decisions that removed some pro-Palestinian faculty and staff from their positions. The hearing took on a fevered, impassioned tenor that at times verged into the outright weird. Rick Allen, a Georgia representative, asked her whether she wanted Columbia University to be “cursed by God”. Shafik, evidently taking this prospect seriously, replied that she didn’t.

The police raid against Columbia students that followed the next day can be seen as an extension of the policy of appeasement and pre-emptive compliance with the anti-Palestinian, anti-student Republican right that Shafik adopted in her testimony. In its war on education and ostentatious displays of grievance against “woke” universities, the far right has made itself hostile to academic freedom, peaceful protest and vast swaths of progressive speech. In her willingness to unleash state violence against student protesters, Shafik proved herself their willing ally. It is worth stating plainly what happened at Columbia: the raid was nothing less than the product of collusion between a university administration and rightwing politicians to suppress politically disfavored speech. [Continue reading…]

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