Columbia University Moves Classes Online Amid Tensions

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The Alma Mater sculpture, at the steps of the Low Library at Columbia University (Photo courtesy of Torfason via Wikimedia Commons)

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik announced classes will be held online today due to safety concerns amid protests at the institution.

The news comes following the widely criticized decision to have New York Police Department (NYPD) officers remove protesting students from their Pro-Palestinian encampment on the South Lawn on April 18.

A total of 108 people have been arrested as the demonstrations entered day six. As of Monday morning, around 200 protestors in more than a dozen tents were camped on the West Lawn outside Butler Library. At the request of the university, NYPD is patrolling the exterior perimeter of the campus. A rabbi associated with the school has advised Jewish students to remain at home.

The Israel-Hamas war protests and pro-Palestinian student organizing, combined with a steep rise in antisemitic incidents, has created concerns about the ability of the university to protect Jewish students. Passover begins this evening and student safety is reportedly the primary concern, according to CNN.

In her public statement, President Shafik said: “We work hard to balance the rights of students to express political views with the need to protect other students from rhetoric that amounts to harassment and discrimination…. The current encampment violates all of the new [protest] policies, severely disrupts campus life, and creates a harassing and intimidating environment for many of our students.”

On Monday, Eric Adams, Mayor of New York City, released a statement encouraging Columbia officials to “maintain an open line of communication with the NYPD to ensure the safety of all students and staff on campus.”