Tuesday 23 April 2024

House Education Chair Demands Columbia University Expulsions

 A top House Republican is calling on Columbia University in New York City to expel any students and faculty members found to have been harassing Jewish students as pro-Palestinian protests take place around the school’s campus.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chairwoman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, sent a letter on Sunday to Columbia University President Minouche Shafik demanding action. On Monday, the Ivy League school moved to remote learning after a rabbi for Columbia and its partner school Barnard College urged Jewish students to go home due to the “extreme antisemitism and anarchy” that the university and New York Police Department could not contain.

“I am gravely concerned by the ongoing chaos at Columbia University caused by the radical, unlawful Gaza Solidarity Encampment, which has now entered its fifth day,” Foxx said, adding later, “Multiple Jewish students have already sought shelter off-campus. Columbia’s continued failure to restore order and safety promptly to campus constitutes a major breach of the University’s Title VI obligations, upon which federal financial assistance is contingent, and which must immediately be rectified. If you do not rectify this danger, then the Committee will not hesitate in holding you accountable.”

The New York Times reported that students erected tents on a central campus lawn at Columbia and insisted they would not leave until the university meets their demands, including divestiture from companies that have ties to Israel, which is fighting a war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip after Hamas committed deadly attacks in Israel on October 7 of last year and took people hostage.

“The encampment and related activities have resulted in widespread antisemitic harassment and intimidation, assaults, frequent celebration of terrorism, and major disruptions of Columbia’s learning environment,” Foxx said, continuing later, “The Committee is aware of multiple Jewish students seeking shelter off-campus due to their well-founded fears regarding their physical safety and continuing to be subjected to what is clearly a hostile environment.”

Examples included: “Protestors screamed ‘go back to Poland!’ and ‘yehudim, yehudim [which translates to Jews, Jews]’ at Jewish Columbia students trying to leave campus”; protesters shoving a student who attempted to recover a stolen Israeli flag that they tried to burn and screaming at him, ‘You’ve got blood on your hands!'”; and a protester “immediately outside Columbia’s gates shouted at two Jewish students, ‘Never forget the 7th of October. That will happen not one more time, not five more times, not 10…100…1000…10,000…The 7th of October is going to be every day for you.”

Last Wednesday, during testimony before Foxx’s committee, Shafik testified that anti-Semitism has “no place on our campus” and was “personally committed to doing everything I can to confront it directly.” On Thursday, Shafik told police in a letter that all university students participating in the encampment have been informed they were suspended as they were not authorized to be on university property and were trespassing.  Police have arrested more than 100 students at Columbia University for refusing to leave. Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and a Barnard student, was detained and later said she had been suspended along with others over their activism.


“This situation is unacceptable, and it is imperative that Columbia’s leaders restore order and safety without further delay, in line with their commitments before the Committee at its April 17 hearing,” Foxx said in her letter.  “Columbia is failing to deliver on these commitments, as Jewish students are being harassed, assaulted, threatened, and intimidated to the point where they are departing campus for safer environments.”

Foxx said the “students, faculty, and staff responsible for this mayhem, including members of the groups Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, Columbia University Apartheid Divest, and Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine, repeatedly and flagrantly have violated multiple University rules, and in many cases, federal law. The University must decisively hold them accountable in a manner commensurate with the severity of their offenses, including expulsion and termination of employment.”

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