close
close

The Columbia government is completely out of touch with academic principles

If I lived a lot further east, I’d be here this afternoon:

There have been several days of peaceful pro-Palestinian protests at Columbia University and Barnard College, which is not surprising. That’s what students have to do; if other students want to work for Israel, that’s fine too. Unfortunately, the government does not understand freedom of speech at all and uses the right-wing definition that says you can only freely agree with them.

They unleashed the police on the students. Protest leaders were summarily dismissed from the university and evicted from their homes, given minutes to evacuate and get away.

They tried to shut down the radio station on campus. They banned students from putting posters on the doors of their dorms. They colluded with conservatives to silence any protests.

The students sat on the ground and sang as police in riot gear approached them. Ultimately, more than a hundred of them would be arrested; their tents, protest signs and Palestinian flags were collected by police in garbage bags and thrown away. One video showed university officers and maintenance staff destroying food donated to the camp to ensure it would be inedible. According to student journalists reporting on WKCR, Columbia University’s student radio station, an arrested student protester asked police if they could go to their dorm to pick up medication, but was denied; As a result, they went into shock. The arrested students were charged with “trespassing on campus,” for which they must pay more than $60,000 annually.

The day before her administration asked the New York police to storm their campus and arrest their students, Minouche Shafik, the president of Columbia University, testified before Congress and said she wanted her university to be a safe and welcoming environment for all would be. But Shafik, who was called to testify after missing a hearing last year where the presidents of Penn and Harvard each came under fire for their insufficient hostility toward pro-Palestinian students, seemed eager to please the Republican-controlled committee to do. The presidents of Penn and Harvard who had testified lost their jobs shortly afterwards; Shafik entered the interrogation room clearly determined to hold her own.

A ‘safe and welcoming environment’, hah. Shafik and others reacted hastily to the existence of opinions that their well-heeled conservative interests disliked, and suddenly they are the Gestapo. Students have since occupied one of the university’s lawns with tents and flying banners, and you can guess how the administration reacts.

In yet another sign of the ongoing division between students and faculty on the one hand, and administrators on the other, Barnard and Columbia faculty members of the American Association of University Professors have loudly deplored the administration’s actions.

Joint statement from the American Association of University Professors,

Barnard and Columbia chapters

April 19, 2024

The American Association of University Professors has defined two central pillars of higher education in America: academic freedom and shared governance: the freedom to teach and conduct research without interference from entities outside the profession; and the “inescapable interdependence between administration, administration, faculty and students.” Over the past three days, President Shafik of Columbia University and her administration have seriously violated both laws. We are appalled by her inability to defend the free inquiry that is central to a university’s educational mission in a democratic society and by her willingness to appease lawmakers who attempt to interfere in university affairs. She has demonstrated a blatant disregard for shared governance by embracing partisan accusations that anti-war protesters are violent and anti-Semitic and by her unilateral and grossly disproportionate punishment of peacefully protesting students.

President Shafik’s testimony before the House Education and Workforce Committee on April 17 deeply troubled us. Faced with the slanderous attacks on Columbia faculty and students and the gross interference in academic practice by Congressional inquisitors, President Shafik not only did not object; she also capitulated to their demands. Academic freedom was formulated from the very beginning to protect teachers from political or other non-academic sources of interference. President Shafik, the co-chairs of the Board of Trustees, and the former Dean of the Law School allowed this freedom for the Columbia faculty to be publicly fragmented. They actually promised, according to Congressional records, to end academic freedom at Columbia.

President Shafik’s decision on April 18 to call on the New York Police Department to arrest more than a hundred students for participating in a peaceful protest is a grotesque violation of the norms of shared governance. Section 444 of the University Statutes, introduced after the 1968 police attacks, requires “consultation” with the Executive Committee of the University Senate before something as drastic as yesterday’s attack would be allowed. President Shafik’s government has not consulted; they informed the committee of its decision. “The Executive Committee has not approved the presence of the NYPD on campus,” the Executive Committee chairman said, adding that the Committee had reached their decision “unequivocally.” Thus, President Shafik’s decision to invite the NYPD to campus was made unilaterally, ignoring the very idea of ​​shared governance.

During Wednesday’s hearing, President Shafik repeatedly claimed that she was ushering in a new era in Columbia. Her actions to date suggest that this era will be one of suppressed speech, political restrictions on academic research, and punitive discipline against the university’s own students and faculty. As the demonstrators’ chant rightly states: “Protest is democracy; this is a mockery!” AAUP Barnard and Columbia pledge continued support for the right of our students to protest and speak freely, and for the right of our colleagues to teach and write freely in their fields. We have lost confidence in our president and government, and we pledge to fight to reclaim our university.

The board sells the university and betrays teachers and students.

“It’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen,” said Nadia Abu El-Haj, an anthropology professor who was standing on the school lawn when police entered. “The students were extraordinary. To sing. To cry. It felt like a total violation of everything an academic institution should be.” She said the arrests were political theater aimed at appeasing Congress, without concerns that students would cause collateral damage.

“Palestine was always going to be the issue that destroyed this university,” said Ry Spada, 24, a history student who is Jewish and was part of the pro-Palestinian protest Thursday night, identifying himself as a non-Zionist. “This year and this topic.”

James Applegate, an astronomy professor who serves on the Columbia University Senate Executive Committee, said he is more concerned about what happened on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, the continued loss of academic freedom and campus culture than he is about police action. peaceful arrests of student demonstrators.

I don’t even understand that last comment. Students are arrested, fired and expelled. It’s important to stay true to your principles, but these are young people who are actively being disadvantaged. I stand next to the students And a liberated Palestine. This will not stop, and it is a shame for every college professor who supports the tyranny of Columbia University and Barnard College.