Columbia leadership rebuked by faculty panel for police crackdown on protesters

Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters gather at an encampment at Columbia University campus in New York on April 25, 2024. (Leonardo Munoz/AFP)
Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters gather at an encampment at Columbia University campus in New York on April 25, 2024. (Leonardo Munoz/AFP)

Columbia’s embattled president came under renewed pressure today as a university oversight panel sharply criticized her administration for clamping down on a pro-Palestinian protest, saying the decision ran “contrary to the norms and traditions” of the Ivy League school.

President Nemat Shafik has faced an outcry from many students, faculty and outside observers for summoning New York police to campus on April 18 to dismantle an encampment of tents set up by protesters against Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

After a two-hour meeting on Friday, the Columbia University Senate approved a resolution asserting that Shafik’s administration had undermined academic freedom and disregarded the privacy and due process rights of students and faculty members by calling in the police and shutting down the protest.

“The decision … has raised serious concerns about the administration’s respect for shared governance and transparency in the university decision-making process,” it says.

The senate, composed mostly of faculty members and other staff, plus a few students, did not specifically name Shafik in its resolution, avoiding harsher wording that could have put her job in greater jeopardy.

There is no immediate response to the resolution from Shafik or the university.

University leaders throughout the country have said the encampments constitute unauthorized protests, jeopardize the safety of students, and at times subject Jewish students to antisemitism and harassment.

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