Columbia University president to testify in Congress on campus antisemitism, conflicts over Gaza war

The statue of Alma Mater on the campus of Columbia University in New York, Oct. 10, 2007. (AP Photo/Diane Bondareff, File)
The statue of Alma Mater on the campus of Columbia University in New York, Oct. 10, 2007. (AP Photo/Diane Bondareff, File)

Four months after a contentious congressional hearing led to the resignations of two Ivy League presidents, Columbia University’s president is set to appear before the same committee over questions of antisemitism and the school’s response to conflicts on campus over the Israel-Hamas war.

Nemat Shafik, Columbia’s leader, was originally asked to testify at the House Education and Workforce Committee’s hearing in December, but she declined, citing scheduling conflicts.

The December hearing instead featured the presidents of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose lawyerly responses drew fierce backlash and fueled weeks of controversy. The presidents of Penn and Harvard have since resigned.

Shafik is expected to testify today along with Columbia University board members. Tensions and accusations of hate and bias have roiled Columbia, like at its sibling colleges, but Shafik has the benefit of hindsight in preparing her remarks. In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal Tuesday, Shafik emphasized the delicate balance between protecting free speech and fostering a safe environment for students on campus.

“Calling for the genocide of a people — whether they are Israelis or Palestinians, Jews, Muslims or anyone else — has no place in a university community,” Shafik wrote. “Such words are outside the bounds of legitimate debate and unimaginably harmful.”

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