Columbia University cancels in-person classes after pro-Palestinian protests

By Thomson Reuters Apr 22, 2024 | 7:53 AM

(Reuters) – Columbia University students will attend classes virtually on Monday as school officials hope to deescalate tensions on the New York City campus after pro-Palestinian demonstrations led to mass arrests last week.

In a statement on Monday, Columbia President Nemat Minouche Shafik said the university was canceling in-person classes on Monday while denouncing antisemitic language and intimidating and harassing behavior that she said had occurred on campus recently.

“These tensions have been exploited and amplified by individuals who are not affiliated with Columbia who have come to campus to pursue their own agendas,” Shafik said. “We need a reset.”

More than 100 pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested on Thursday on the campus after Shafik authorized New York police to clear an encampment set up by students demonstrating against Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Elie Buechler, an Orthodox rabbi at Columbia University and its affiliate Barnard College, told students in a online message that campus and city police cannot guarantee the safety of Jewish students, according to local media.

“It deeply pains me to say that I would strongly recommend you return home as soon as possible and remain home until the reality in and around campus has dramatically improved,” Buechler said in a WhatsApp message sent to hundreds before the start of Passover over the weekend.

The protests at Columbia, reminiscent of the demonstrations against the Vietnam War at Columbia more than 50 years ago, are the latest in a series of protests disrupting university campuses, bridges and airports since the latest escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began on Oct. 7.

Alongside the protests, human rights advocates, have also pointed to a rise in bias and hate against Jews, Arabs and Muslims in the months following Oct 7.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)