Follow Us

Columbia pres tells Congress 'antisemitism has no place on our campus,' trustee admits ill prepared

The Education Department's Civil Rights Office opened a Title VI probe into the university in November over allegations of antisemitism.

Published: April 17, 2024 10:25am

Updated: April 17, 2024 12:56pm

Columbia University President Nemat Shafik told Congress on Wednesday that "antisemitism has no place on our campus," amid a surge of such incidents across the country follow Hama's October 2023 terror attack on Israel, then Israel declaring war on the Palestinian-affiliated group. 

"We must urgently and relentlessly fight this terrible form of hate," she also said in prepared opening testimony before the House Education and Workforce Committee.

"Universities, the great purveyors of education, must be leaders in fighting all forms of discrimination. That means shifting our focus from slogans toward education, community, compassion and human decency so that we can shape citizens who will become exemplars of a better society."

Shafik was joined at the hearing by university Board of Trustees Co-Chair Claire Shipman who said the Ivy League school in New York City is not equipped to manage antisemitism on campus and that she is "not satisfied" with where Columbia stands.

"I feel this current climate on our campus viscerally," Shipman said. "It is unacceptable. I can tell you plainly that I am not satisfied with where Columbia is at the moment."

Shafik's statement follows widely criticized testimony in December 2023 by Harvard University President Claudia Gay, who would not say that calls for the genocide of Jews violated their universities’ codes of conduct.

Gay later apologized and clarified her remarks, saying that such calls “are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account.” However, she resigned the next month amid plagarism allegations. 

Shafik was invited to last year's hearing – along with Gay, the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – but was unable to attend.

Shafik and Shipman were joined Wednesday by Columbia Board of Trustees Co-Chair David Greenwald and tenured professor David Schizer, a dean emeritus of college's law school.

Schizer, who also served for three years as the CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, described multiple incidents of students being assaulted. 

"Some of the worst cases of antisemitic assaults, harassment, and vandalism on campus have occurred at Columbia University," Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said before the hearing began.

"Due to the severe and pervasive nature of these cases, and the Columbia administration’s failure to enforce its own policies to protect Jewish students, the committee must hear from Columbia’s leadership in person to learn how the school is addressing antisemitism on its campus."

One of the most memorable moments from the December hearing was when Gay was asked whether calling for the genocide of Jews violated Harvard's code of conduct, to which she responded that it depended "on the context."

Oregon Democratic Rep. Suzanne Bonamici on Wednesday echoed that question when she asked all of the Columbia witnesses whether calling for the genocide of Jews violated the school's code, to which they said yes.

The Education Department's Civil Rights Office in November 2023 opened a Title VI probe into allegations of antisemitism at Columbia.

In February, the Columbia Law School Student Senate declined to officially recognize a proposed student group fighting antisemitism that used the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's working definition of the term.

More recently, Columbia received the grade of a "D" in the Anti-Defamation League's Antisemitism Report Card.

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on X or Instagram.

Just the News Spotlight

Support Just the News