Protests at Columbia, Yale, and many other campuses across the U.S.

Protests at Columbia, Yale, and many other campuses across the U.S.

Bruce Robbins, the Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia, writes:

When Minouche Shafik, the president of Columbia University, testified before the House of Representatives on 17 April, she didn’t fall into the traps set a few months earlier for the presidents of Penn, MIT and Harvard, two of whom are now gone. They had been asked whether they would permit genocidal talk against the Jews on their campuses – a dark discourse that lurked, according to the questioners, in such terms as ‘from the river to the sea’ and ‘intifada’. All three university presidents last December came up with legalistic answers, invoking context. But Shafik last week did not. She presented herself as a relentless scourge of antisemitism. Her head will not fall – at least not as a result of congressional displeasure.

There is some question, however, about her future at Columbia. First, because of her craven and embarrassing submission to the House Republicans. And second, because on the following day she brought the police in to demolish a student tent encampment protesting against the Israeli slaughter in Gaza. The encampment is on a campus lawn allocated by the university for demonstrations. More than a hundred student demonstrators were arrested. Shafik may have avoided viral memes of awkward moments in Congress, but videos of the NYPD in action against peaceful demonstrators on 18 April, now circulating widely, amply illustrate the violence that Shafik was willing to inflict on Columbia and Barnard students in the name of assuring student safety. It’s the first time the police have been invited onto Columbia’s campus since 1968. Like 1968, 2024 may go down as an inauspicious year for university administrations trying to defend the indefensible.

The House Republicans who pressed the point about chants allegedly ‘calling for the genocide of Jews’ on university campuses had not previously displayed much concern for the wellbeing of American Jews. In 2017, Donald Trump, who will soon again be their presidential nominee, described some of the torch carriers who chanted ‘Jews will not replace us’ in Charlottesville as ‘very fine people’. You would not have to dig very deep to uncover friendly associations with white supremacists among the present committee members. (I would love to be challenged to document this.) Still, you could hardly call them dull. One invoked the Book of Genesis to back up his conviction that Columbia had to support Israel whatever Israel did. Did Shafik want to bring down God’s curse on Columbia? Please answer yes or no. Another raised the genocidal threat contained in the word ‘infantada’, a malapropism she used twice.

The many Columbia faculty members who were less than happy with Shafik’s pragmatic testimony, myself included, were not surprised that she declared herself a zealous and proactive foe of antisemitism on campus. We were not surprised that she failed to distinguish between the real threat of antisemitism and criticism of the industrial-scale killing of Palestinians in Gaza, a criticism that does not target Jews as Jews. And we were not surprised that she didn’t distinguish between real acts of antisemitism, which have been very few, and the anxiety or discomfort of Jewish students forced, perhaps for the first time, to confront the fact that much of the world disapproves of what Israel is up to. [Continue reading…]


The Guardian reports:

A huge crowd of faculty members who teach at Columbia University in New York held a mass walk-out on Monday afternoon to protest the institution having called police to arrest students at a pro-Palestinian encampment protest last week.

Hundreds of members of the teaching cohort at Columbia walked out in solidarity with the students who were arrested by the New York police department last week and also suspended by the university. [Continue reading…]

CNN reports:

At least 40 protesters have been arrested during a pro-Palestinian rally at Yale University in Connecticut, the school’s police chief told the Yale Daily News.

Those arrested face charges of trespassing, a Class A misdemeanor, Yale Police Chief Anthony Campbell told the campus news publication. Campbell said those arrested would be released after processing.

The police chief said protesters had been warned twice before the arrests – once at 11 p.m. Sunday night and again Monday morning before 7 a.m.

Journalists from the Yale Daily News were also threatened with arrest if they did not move from the plaza, the publication said. [Continue reading…]

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