J Street U Columbia Statement on Ongoing Tensions on University Campus

April 22, 2024

The Board of J Street U Columbia issued the following statement today regarding ongoing tensions on the University’s campus:

The severe dehumanization in the last week on Columbia’s campus has been shameful and deeply destabilizing.

Pro-Palestinian protesters have chanted antisemitic slogans at Jewish students like “go back to Poland” and stood in front of them with signs implying that they were Hamas’ next target. Many Jewish students on our campus feel unsafe solely because of their Jewish identity. Particularly in the last few days, antisemitic rhetoric has approached a fever pitch on and adjacent to our campus.

We are dismayed by the failure of protesters to forcefully condemn this rhetoric. While we disagree with their stated goals of divestment and cutting off academic ties to Israel, we respect the right of protesters to advocate peacefully and without resorting to hateful speech. These recent incidents and the negligence of protest leaders are appalling, and we call on these protesters to conduct themselves in a manner to be expected in a healthy and safe democracy.

Amid these recent escalations, Barnard students who are believed to have participated in the protests have been suspended and unceremoniously kicked out of their housing with 15 minutes given to collect their belongings. Irrespective of our position on the protests or specific incidents, Barnard and Columbia have wielded disciplinary measures against individuals with a heavy hand and little thought to the long-term consequences on the broader student body. The snap suspensions and callous treatment of these students should worry every student.

After months of violations of policy, Columbia asked the NYPD to forcibly remove the Pro-Palestine CUAD (Columbia University Apartheid Divest) demonstration on campus, leading to the arrest of over a hundred students. Columbia was within its legal rights to arrest trespassers, but it overrode the recommendation of the University Senate Executive Committee, which did not consent to the use of the NYPD to arrest student demonstrators. Not only did this use of force represent a serious escalation in response to ongoing non-violent protest, it failed to quell antisemitic rhetoric, calm the protests or ensure collective safety. We believe that this action severely damaged the campus climate.

The current campus climate is unacceptable, and campus stakeholders must take corrective steps to condemn antisemitism, ensure the safety of Jewish students and reaffirm the right to nonviolent protest. At this moment, we offer our support to every student who needs a space to express how they are feeling. We hope that Columbia will emerge from this moment into a future that is constructive, nuanced and free of bigotry. Our university must be a place where the rights of Jews, Israelis and protesters are fully respected. In the meantime, we call on Columbia to articulate a clear path forward that acknowledges our collective humanity and dignity.