Tuesday 30 April 2024

House Dems Join Republicans In Pressing For Resignations If Columbia Does Not Crack Down On Anti-Israel Protests

 On Monday, nearly two dozen House Democrats called on Columbia University to put an end to the encampment of pro-Palestinian protesters at the New York City campus, joining their Republican colleagues in demanding a crackdown.

The group of 21 members, including former Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), said in a letter to the Trustees of Columbia University that the demonstrations had created a hazardous learning environment for Jewish students in “apparent violation” of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

Reports of anti-Semitic harassment led a campus rabbi to warn Jewish students to go home for safety reasons. As attempts to uproot tents and detain protesters failed to quell the anti-Israel demonstrations, Colombia shifted to remote learning and hybrid classes at the main campus.

Columbia President Minouche Shafik announced on Monday that talks with the protest organizers had stalled and declared that the university would not meet one of their key demands: divesting from Israel amid its war against Hamas in Gaza. Students were given until 2 p.m. to leave the encampment or face penalties.

The 21 Democrats said they “appreciate” efforts by Columbia to negotiate and put an end to the lawn encampment but stated that “it is now abundantly clear the students and activists” are “unwilling to enter a reasonable agreement to disband.”

“Those who violate the law cannot dictate the terms of the University’s ability to comply with that law. It is past time for the University to act decisively, disband the encampment, and ensure the safety and security of all its students,” the group said.

“The time for negotiation is over; the time for action is now,” they added. “It is ultimately the responsibility of the Board of Trustees to act. If any Trustees are unwilling to do this, they should resign so that they can be replaced by individuals who will uphold the University’s legal obligations under Title VI.”

Last week, Republican lawmakers led the charge in clamoring for resignations at Columbia. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and other GOP members called on Shafik to step down if she could not restore order to campus.

“I’m here today joining my colleagues and calling on President Shafik to resign if she cannot immediately bring order to this chaos,” Johnson said during a visit to the university.

Reps. Dan Goldman (D-NY) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), both Jewish, spearheaded the Monday letter. They joined Democratic colleagues in a visit to Columbia last week to speak out against anti-Semitism. Other signees included Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who is campaigning for a Senate seat, and Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), who ran a long-shot presidential campaign this cycle.


At least one Democrat in the Senate, Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), has been vocal in saying that Shafik should resign if she is unable to maintain a safe environment for all students on campus. Last week, President Joe Biden would not call on Shafik to step down, but he did condemn “antisemitic protests” and “those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians.”

Other Democrats, particularly members of the leftist “Squad” in the House, have been more sympathetic to the pro-Palestinian demonstrators at Columbia and universities across the country where the demonstrations have taken place.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) visited the encampment at Columbia University last week and praised the leadership of the protest as “so excellent.” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) said she was “enormously proud” of her daughter, Isra Hirsi, who was arrested while participating in an anti-Israel protest at the school.

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