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Columbia U. president condemns calls for ‘genocide of Jews’ during Congressional hearing

President Minouche Shafik said calling for ‘genocide of Jews’ violates ‘Code of Conduct’

President Minouche Shafik of Columbia University condemned calling for the “genocide of Jews” on campus in her testimony in Congress yesterday.

She criticized antisemitism on the elite New York university’s campus but was less sure about about consequences for such actions among students and faculty.

“Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Columbia’s code of conduct,” Democratic Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon asked.

All Columbia representatives, including Shafik, said it does.

The question mirrors what Republican New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik asked during December 2023 hearings. Those responses from the presidents of MIT, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard University drew criticism. Penn President Liz Magill and Harvard President Claudine Gay ultimately resigned, at least partially due to their unsure answers.

“I attended a vigil for the victims on October 9; we held daily meetings of our campus security committee; we brought in extra security expertise; and have regular contact with NYPD and the FBI,” Shafik said.

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, began the hearing by saying since Oct. 7 Columbia University has become “a platform for the support of terrorism and violence against the Jewish people.” 

Foxx went on to say that “Columbia administrators have repeatedly failed in their duty to protect Jewish students from this hateful, retrograde form of discrimination.”  This was her conclusion, at the end of the hearing, as well. 

She said a student, Eden Yadegar, had told the committee in February hearings: “It is impossible to exist as a Jewish student at Columbia without running face first into antisemitism every single day. Jew hatred is so deeply embedded in the campus culture that it has become casual and palatable by students and faculty, and neglected by administrators.”

Shafik was joined by co-chair of the task force on antisemitism at Columbia and former law school dean David Schizer, and co-chairmen of the Board of Trustees, Claire Shipman and David Greenwald.

Columbia is working on determining where free speech crosses the line to prohibited speech. This came up repeatedly in questioning. 

Schizer said: “Free speech matters. It doesn’t mean I can shout you down. It doesn’t extend to harassment and discrimination.” 

The professor said that one of the big changes made was limiting protests to certain places on campus, so that people could choose to avoid them.

Republicans on the committee asked for concrete numbers on how many students had been suspended, and how many professors had been disciplined or fired for antisemitic activity of comments.

The Columbia administration did suspend two pro-Hamas student groups, last fall. Students for Justice and Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace were suspended from campus activity Nov. 10, which has not stopped them, Shafik and others noted.

SJP took part in a protest run from a private campus residence, as Shafik said.

The New York Post reported that Congresswoman Stefanik stated after the hearings: “Today’s hearing of Columbia University president and board members epitomizes the failed leadership on ‘elite’ college campuses to combat antisemitism and protect Jewish students.”

“From the glaringly inconsistent testimony regarding disciplinary action and lack thereof taken against antisemitic students and pro-terrorist faculty, to astonishingly stating that there has been no ‘anti-Jewish’ protests on campus only to then acknowledge that ‘F– the Jews’ & ‘Death to the Jews’ is in-fact anti-Jewish when she was further pressed.”

MORE: Claudine Gay resigns as Harvard president

IMAGE: House Committee on Education and the Workforce/YouTube

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