Columbia University President Criticized for Denouncing Professors in Congressional Testimony

Columbia University president faces backlash over criticism of professors, amid tensions over pro-Palestinian protests and concerns about antisemitism on campus.

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Sakchi Khandelwal
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Columbia University President Criticized for Denouncing Professors in Congressional Testimony

Columbia University President Criticized for Denouncing Professors in Congressional Testimony

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik is facing backlash after her congressional testimony in which she criticized professors and raised concerns about academic freedom. Shafik's testimony comes amid ongoing tensions at Columbia over pro-Palestinian protests that have led to the arrest of over 100 people and reports of Jewish students feeling unsafe on campus.

In her testimony, Shafik acknowledged disciplinary cases against faculty members who used phrases like "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free." She stated that professors who cross the line on antisemitism will face repercussions, including being removed from the classroom or terminated. Shafik specifically named professors Joseph Massad and Mohamed Abdou, saying they would not have been granted tenure or would never teach at Columbia again. "Professors who cross the line on antisemitism will face repercussions, including being removed from the classroom or terminated," Shafik testified.

Critics argue that Shafik's actions amount to denouncing faculty and violating the principles of academic freedom. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is expected to introduce a Resolution of Censure against Shafik and other university officials for allegedly making an "unprecedented assault on students' rights." The resolution states that Shafik ignored the opinions of the faculty and students who unanimously rejected her request to summon armed police onto campus, and falsely claimed that the arrested students posed a clear and present danger to the university.

Why this matters: The controversy at Columbia University highlights the ongoing challenges faced by higher education institutions in balancing free speech, academic freedom, and concerns about discrimination. The outcome of this situation could have broader implications for how universities handle sensitive political issues and protests on campus.

Lawmakers from both parties have called for Shafik's resignation, citing her "misguided decisions" and failure to protect Jewish students. Rep. Ritchie Torres, a Democrat from New York, criticized Shafik for being an "appeaser of antisemitism." The White House and other officials have also condemned the reports of antisemitism on Columbia's campus. Shafik has acknowledged the crisis and stated that a working group will try to resolve the situation. "A working group will try to resolve the situation and enable a peaceful completion of the term," Shafik said in a statement.

Key Takeaways

  • Columbia Pres. Shafik faces backlash over criticism of profs and academic freedom
  • Shafik says profs who cross line on antisemitism will face consequences, including termination
  • AAUP to introduce censure resolution against Shafik for alleged assault on student rights
  • Lawmakers call for Shafik's resignation, citing "misguided decisions" and failure to protect students
  • Shafik acknowledges crisis, says working group will try to resolve situation on campus