Coumbia prez urges ‘soul searching’ after campus protests

Columbia University president Minouche Shafik urged different college higher-ups to “engage in serious soul searching” over the fallout from the campus protests in a brand new op-ed about campus free speech.

“We must do a better job of defining the boundaries between the free speech rights of one part of our community and the rights of others to be educated in a place free of discrimination and harassment,” Shafik, 61, wrote in the Financial Times.

Minouche Shafik.
Minouche Shafik testified earlier than Congress when the primary encampments emerged. AFP by way of Getty Images

Shafik – who was appointed as Columbia’s twentieth president in July 2023, and was formally inaugurated simply three days earlier than the Hamas terror assault – had made headlines for a number of weeks because the Morningside Heights campus turned floor zero for a wave of anti-Israel tent encampments.

In the brand new op-ed, Shafik claimed that almost all of the campus activists are “passionate, intelligent and committed” – and blamed the chaos and hateful rhetoric of “the actions and antisemitic comments of some.”

The first tent encampment emerged on a Columbia garden in mid-April, on the identical day that Shafik supplied flakey testimony on campus antisemitism earlier than the House Education and Workforce Committee.

NYPD officers arrested student protesters at Columbia after being given the green light to storm campus.
NYPD officers arrested pupil protesters at Columbia after being given the inexperienced mild to storm campus. AFP by way of Getty Images

During the peak of the protests, Shafik confronted severe scrutiny – and even calls to resign – from each side of the political aisle when she initially appeared to cave to the protesters.

The subject got here to a head after the college lastly demanded the protesters disband the tent camp.

That’s when protesters stormed and occupied a campus constructing, inflicting Shafik to offer the inexperienced mild for a large NYPD raid that resulted in dozens of arrests.

In her essay, Shafik insisted that college officers “engaged in serious, good faith dialogue with protesters” – however added that she and different head honchos in greater training should “engage in serious soul searching about why this is happening.”

“If colleges and universities cannot better define the boundaries between free speech and discrimination, government will move to fill that gap, and in ways that do not necessarily protect academic freedom,” she advised.

A sign at the tent encampment.
The protesters occupied the Columbia lawns from mid-April via the start of May. Matthew McDermott

Shafik – who was deputy governor of the Bank of England and had plum jobs on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund earlier than getting the Columbia gig – additionally wrote Columbia and different faculties have to heal so as to transfer ahead productively.

“Rather than tearing ourselves apart, universities must rebuild the bonds within ourselves and between society and the academy based on our shared values and on what we do best: education, research, service and public engagement,” she opined.

Hamilton Hall while under occupation.
The Columbia protesters finally occupied a campus constructing. POOL/AFP by way of Getty Images

Despite Shafik’s name for soul-searching, divisions at Columbia and different Ivy League establishments nonetheless run deep: On Friday morning, police in riot gear stormed the University of Pennsylvania encampment and arrested a number of protesters.

Columbia additionally introduced this week that it canceled its university-wide commencement ceremony attributable to “security concerns.”

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