Columbia Faculty Vote on NoConfidence, Votein President Amid Protest Fallout

Columbia University faculty vote on a no-confidence resolution against President Minouche Shafik over her handling of campus protests and congressional testimony. The resolution accuses Shafik's administration of undermining academic freedom and putting students and faculty in harm's way.

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Columbia Faculty Vote on NoConfidence, Votein President Amid Protest Fallout

Columbia Faculty Vote on NoConfidence, Votein President Amid Protest Fallout

Around 1,000 faculty members from Columbia University's arts and sciences department are voting this week on a resolution of no confidence in President Minouche Shafik. The vote, called for by the campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), comes in response to Shafik's handling of recent campus protests and her congressional testimony.

Why this matters: The controversy highlights the tension between academic freedom and institutional accountability, with implications for the role of university administrations in balancing these competing interests. Moreover, the outcome of this vote may set a precedent for faculty pushback against administrative decisions at other universities.

The faculty resolution accuses Shafik's administration of making unilateral decisions that put students and faculty in harm's way. It states that the "President's choices to ignore our statutes and our norms of academic freedom and shared governance, to have our students arrested, and to impose a lockdown of our campus with continuing police presence have irrevocably undermined our confidence in her."

Specific concerns raised by faculty include Shafik's April 17 congressional testimony, where she announced plans to fire one professor and investigate two others over comments about Israel, seen as violations of academic freedom. They also criticized her decisions to call in the NYPD to end a campus building takeover and Gaza solidarity encampment, leading to over 100 arrests, without consulting faculty and student governance structures.

Columbia math professor Michael Thaddeus said Shafik "vacillated on the encampment, first calling the police to dismantle it, then promising not to call them again, then reneging on her promise and authorizing a brutal crackdown." He argued her heavy-handed security measures alienated students and made them feel less safe.

A Columbia spokeswoman said President Shafik"continues to regularly consult with members of the community, including faculty, administration, and trustees, as well as with state, city and community leaders"and appreciates the efforts of those working to heal the community. Shafik herself has called for "serious soul searching" within higher education to reunify campuses after a tense semester of protests.

This marks the first time any school at Columbia has considered a motion of no confidence in leadership. While the vote is symbolic and not binding, some faculty believe it could lead to a change in management style or even Shafik's resignation if it passes. A recent survey of over 700 students and professors found 96% disagreed with how Shafik's administration handled the protests, with half calling for her to step down.