Columbia to Hold Classes Remotely Following Weekend Protests

Columbia to Hold Classes Remotely Following Weekend Protests

Columbia University announced early Monday that it would hold classes remotely after a wave of agitated protests on campus over the weekend that drew widespread attention from city and national officials and raised safety concerns for some Jewish students.

The university’s president, Minouche Shafik, said in a letter to the Columbia community, “We need a reset,” adding that she felt sadness about how the university’s bonds had been severely tested in recent weeks. She urged students who do not live on campus not to travel there.

The campus has been embroiled in protests since last week. On Wednesday, as Dr. Shafik testified at a congressional hearing examining antisemitism at the university, pro-Palestinian students erected dozens of tents on a central campus lawn, vowing to stay put until Columbia met demands including divesting from companies with ties to Israel. On Thursday, after the students refused to stand down, the New York police arrested more than 100 of them.

In the coming days, a working group of deans, university administrators and faculty members will work to bring the crisis to a resolution, Dr. Shafik said.

“That includes continuing discussions with the student protesters and identifying actions we can take as a community to enable us to peacefully complete the term and return to respectful engagement with each other,” she said.

On Sunday, the atmosphere on campus was fraught, stirred by pro-Palestinian protests the previous day. Elie Buechler, a rabbi who works for Columbia, told hundreds of Jewish students on Sunday morning via WhatsApp that the university had failed to guarantee their safety and urged them to return home.

Some of those protests on Saturday evening lead to the harassment of some Jewish students who were targeted with antisemitic comments. The verbal attacks sowed fear in some of the 5,000 Jewish students at Columbia and drew condemnation from the White House and Mayor Eric Adams of New York City.

The student-led demonstrations on campus also drew protests outside campus by pro-Palestinian demonstrators who appeared to be unaffiliated with the university.

In her letter, Dr. Shafik urged anyone affected by the protests to report problems through the proper university channels. Many students and faculty have said the university’s decision to call in the police was too aggressive, and some also drew a distinction between the protests inside campus and those outside.

“Let’s remind ourselves of our common values of honoring learning, mutual respect and kindness that have been the bedrock of Columbia,” Dr. Shafik said in her letter. “I hope everyone can take a deep breath, show compassion, and work together to rebuild the ties that bind us together.”

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