- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 28, 2024

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik may have appeased student activists by letting slide her deadline on removing the anti-Israel protest encampment, but she failed to appease Rep. Virginia Foxx.

The Education and the Workforce Committee chairwoman fired off a warning after Columbia officials allowed their Friday deadline to expire without taking action, then ruled out bringing back police to clear out the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” covering the West Lawn.

Ms. Foxx said Sunday the announcement shows that the president’s word “means nothing.”

“During our hearing with President Shafik, she assured us that Columbia would take decisive action to stop antisemitism on campus. We know now that her word means nothing,” Ms. Foxx told The Washington Times.

“Instead of confronting antisemitic protesters with moral clarity, Shafik has repeatedly failed to enforce her own deadlines and emboldened the agitators with concessions,” said the North Carolina Republican. “Shafik has failed to meet the moment, and the committee will pursue every possible avenue to create a safe learning environment for Jewish students.”

Ms. Shafik gave student protesters until Wednesday to reach an agreement on tearing down the encampment or the university would “consider alternative options,” then extended the deadline by 48 hours.

On Friday, however, she said in a joint statement with three other Columbia leaders — Board of Trustees Co-Chairs David Greenwald and Claire Shipman, and Provost Angela Olinto — that talks are ongoing with “student leaders of the encampment.”

The officials also promised not to call back in the New York Police Department. Officers arrested more than 100 students Thursday on trespassing charges, prompting a mass walkout by hundreds of faculty and staff.

“We called on NYPD to clear an encampment once, but we all share the view, based on discussions within our community and with outside experts, that to bring back the NYPD at this time would be counterproductive, further inflaming what is happening on campus, and drawing thousands to our doorstep who would threaten our community,” said the university leaders.

“Having said that, we also need to continue to enforce our own rules and ensure that those who violate the norms of our community face consequences,” they said.

In addition, university spokesperson Ben Chang said Saturday there was “no truth to claims of an impending lockdown or evictions on campus,” refuting a report on Instagram by Columbia University Apartheid Divest and Students for Justice in Palestine.

Pro-Palestinian student protests have roiled college campuses in recent weeks, prompting more than 200 arrests over the weekend as at least four universities called in police to remove trespassers and clear out burgeoning encampments.

Arizona State University said 72 people were arrested Friday after setting up an encampment on school property, which is prohibited. About 80% of those arrested “were not students.”

Other universities that saw arrests included Northeastern University in Boston, Indiana University Bloomington, and Washington University in St. Louis.

Police arrested 57 protesters at the University of Texas at Austin last week on criminal trespassing charges, but the Travis County District Attorney dropped all charges, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

The turmoil at Columbia prompted the university to switch last week from in-person classes to mostly hybrid learning, while a university-affiliated rabbi urged Jewish students to return home over threats to their safety.

Last week, the University of Southern California canceled its commencement over concerns about anti-Israel student unrest, fueling speculation that Columbia may follow suit.

“We all agree that this situation must be resolved so that everyone can complete the semester, students can go home, and we can provide graduating students and their loved ones the celebratory commencement they deserve,” said Columbia in its latest statement.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2024 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide