HomeNewsColumbia president faces congressional grilling during antisemitism hearing

Columbia president faces congressional grilling during antisemitism hearing

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Dive Temporary:

  • The Home training committee continued its inquiry into antisemitism at faculties Wednesday as Republicans grilled leaders from Columbia College.
  • Minouche Shafik, president of Columbia, together with different college officers, testified in entrance of the Home Committee on Training and the Workforce for nearly 4 hours on what the Ivy League establishment is doing to handle a rise in antisemitic acts.
  • Republicans closely criticized Columbia for failing to react to antisemitism on its campus and attacked the college’s disciplinary strategies for college and college students who violated its harassment insurance policies as too weak.

Dive Perception:

Wednesday’s listening to was the newest in a collection of congressional probes into antisemitism on faculty campuses following the Oct. 7 Hamas assault on Israel and the escalation of the continued Israel-Hamas battle.

Faculties have lengthy been dwelling to pupil activism and protests, however they’re more and more grappling with the problem of balancing free speech rights and disciplining harassment within the wake of the Center East state of affairs. 

The Hamas assault resulted in about 1,200 deaths, and the militant group, labeled as a terrorist group by the U.S. authorities, continues to carry some 100 Israeli hostages. Israel retaliated with airstrikes and floor assaults on Gaza, the place the dying toll has reached a minimum of 34,000, in accordance with the Palestinian Ministry of Well being.

In December, the Home training committee grilled three leaders from different extremely selective faculties — Claudine Homosexual of Harvard College, Elizabeth Magill of the College of Pennsylvania, and Sally Kornbluth of the Massachusetts Institute of Know-how — on their establishments’ antisemitism and free speech insurance policies. Within the aftermath of their remarks, each Homosexual and Magill have been pressured out of their roles.

The committee had initially known as Shafik to testify together with the trio, however she declined, citing scheduling conflicts.

Since that listening to, faculties, together with Columbia, have continued to see rising tensions and unauthorized demonstrations on campus.

Home lawmakers lastly acquired the possibility to handle Shafik instantly on Wednesday, together with two of the college’s trustees and David Schizer, a legislation professor at Columbia who’s co-chair of its activity drive on combating antisemitism. 

“Columbia directors have repeatedly failed of their responsibility to guard Jewish college students from this hateful, retrograde type of discrimination,” Virginia Foxx, the North Carolina Republican who chairs the committee, mentioned in her opening assertion. “We’ve seen far too little, far too late carried out to counter that and defend college students and workers.”

Main as much as the listening to, faculties throughout the nation ramped up disciplinary actions in opposition to pupil protesters. 

For instance, Columbia suspended and evicted six college students from college housing for his or her alleged involvement in an unauthorized occasion. The college lifted sanctions in opposition to two of the scholars shortly afterward, in accordance with the Columbia Day by day Spectator, its pupil newspaper.

Shafik mentioned on Wednesday the administration took motion, partially, as a result of the scholars declined to take part within the college’s investigation.

Nonetheless, Republicans on the committee criticized not simply pupil protesters however some members of Columbia college. 

Shafik confirmed the college fired a minimum of one college member over feedback he made about Israel and mentioned the professor might by no means be rehired.

“I’m very personally dedicated to creating certain that our college don’t cross the road, by way of discrimination and harassment,” mentioned Shafik, who has led the college for lower than a yr. “Many of those appointments have been made up to now, in a distinct period, and that period is completed.”

Nonetheless, Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican from New York, blasted the college for not instantly dismissing a handful of college she mentioned had expressed blatantly antisemitic and anti-Jewish sentiments. Written warnings will not be sufficient, she mentioned.

“Do you see the priority that talking to those professors will not be sufficient, and it’s sending a message throughout the college that that is tolerated?” Stefanik requested, earlier than cedeing her time. 

By means of the listening to, Shafik emphasised that Columbia strengthened each its harassment disciplinary insurance policies and their enforcement.

Republican lawmakers maintained a combative tone all through the listening to, typically visibly annoyed when Shafik declined to reply with a sure or no as as to if phrases like “from the river to the ocean” are antisemitic.

On the coronary heart of the strain is how teachers and lawmakers outline antisemitism

Columbia’s antisemitism activity drive, for instance, has confronted criticism for not setting a transparent definition of what constitutes antisemitism. The dispute arises partially due to conflicting definitions from past the campus.

The Anti-Defamation League considers assist of the state of Israel inherent to the Jewish identification, and thus calls assaults on the nation antisemitic. The Worldwide Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, nonetheless, has mentioned criticism of Israel will not be considered antisemitic whether it is “much like that leveled in opposition to some other nation.”

Through the listening to, Schizer outlined antisemitism extra instantly than his activity drive had beforehand.

“It is bias in opposition to Jewish individuals, which may manifest as ethnic slurs, stereotyping, Holocaust denial, double requirements as applies to Israel, and antisemitic tropes,” he mentioned.

Each Stefanik and Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, requested Shafik if a latest anti-Israel protest at Columbia was inherently anti-Jewish. However Shafik sidestepped.

“The protest was not labeled as an anti-Jewish protest. It was labeled as an anti-Israel authorities and coverage protest,” Shafik mentioned, via Stefanik’s makes an attempt to chop her off. “However antisemitic issues have been mentioned.”

Schizer mentioned Columbia’s activity drive is anticipated to challenge a report on combating antisemitism subsequent month.

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