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Columbia: Suspended anti-Israel groups’ Barnard protest ‘did not take place on Columbia’s campus’

"We will address conduct complaints against Columbia students at this event under Columbia’s policies," a university spokeswoman said, of the Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace protest.

NYPD officers next to sign requiring ID in front of Columbia University's main gate on Nov. 15, 2023 during a protest after the suspension of anti-Israel student groups. Credit: Here Now/Shutterstock.
NYPD officers next to sign requiring ID in front of Columbia University's main gate on Nov. 15, 2023 during a protest after the suspension of anti-Israel student groups. Credit: Here Now/Shutterstock.

Columbia University suspended the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace chapters “through the end of the fall term,” wrote Gerald Rosberg, senior executive vice president of the university, on Nov. 10.

“Suspension means the two groups will not be eligible to hold events on campus or receive university funding,” added Rosberg, who chairs Columbia’s special committee on campus safety.

Per the university’s website, the last day of classes was Dec. 11, and final exams run through Dec. 22. By either measure, the groups appeared to violate their suspension by holding a protest on campus on Monday.

“We have been made aware of a protest planned on the Barnard campus for Monday afternoon. This protest has not been authorized,” wrote two Barnard College senior administrators, Sarah Gillman and Leslie Grinage, in a letter to the college community on Dec. 11.

“Barnard is located just across Broadway from Columbia’s main campus, and is one of four undergraduate schools within the Columbia University system,” per the Barnard website. A map of the Morningside campus on the Columbia website includes the Barnard campus, appearing to suggest that it would be included in the ban on “events on campus” that Rosberg announced.

“We are actively reviewing yesterday’s events in the context of our code of conduct,” a Barnard spokesperson told the Columbia Spectator. “We take violations of our code and policies seriously and are also actively reviewing cases and reports of violent speech.”

Samantha Slater, a Columbia spokeswoman, told JNS that the event was “an unsanctioned protest by an unsanctioned group.”

“While it did not take place on Columbia’s campus, incitement to violence against members of our community is abhorrent and will not be tolerated, something we have repeatedly made clear,” Slater added.

“We suspended these groups when they refused to follow the rules, despite multiple reminders and warnings about the consequences,” she added. “While we will not comment on specific cases and disciplinary processes for individuals, we are enforcing the rules and policies that are in place to ensure safety and standards of behavior, a responsibility that we take extremely seriously.”

Slater told JNS that “Barnard is a separate entity, and Columbia does not control the Barnard campus where this protest occurred.”

“But we will address conduct complaints against Columbia students at this event under Columbia’s policies,” she added.

At the Dec. 11 protest, SJP and JVP members chanted “Intifada, intifada, long live the intifada” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” per a letter that the  International Legal Forum sent to Columbia’s president, interim provost and senior executive vice president.

“Let there be no misunderstanding, these are not mere expressions of difference in political opinion, but a direct and unadulterated call for violence and genocide, directly placing Jewish students, faculty and staff, in harm’s way,” wrote Arsen Ostrovsky, CEO of the forum.

Columbia University
Protesters hold anti-Israel, anti-Jewish banners outside of Columbia University’s campus after the academic institution suspended its Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, Nov. 15, 2023. Credit: Here Now/Shutterstock.

‘It is now time to enforce the rules’

Ostrovsky added that it is “sickening that these calls were made at Barnard College, whose primary mission is to empower young women, given all that we know about the horrific mass rape, sexual violence and mutilation of Israeli women and girls, perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7.”

In the letter and as part of a conversation with JNS, Ostrovsky noted that Columbia leaders have not condemned Monday’s protest, nor have they denounced the two student groups since the Dec. 11 event. He called on the university to ban both groups permanently, including for what he described as violating their suspension.

“It is now time to enforce your own promises and the university’s rules to show there will be zero tolerance for antisemitism and calls for genocide directed against Jewish students,” he wrote.

Ostrovsky told JNS that “for all intents and purposes, Columbia and Barnard are one and the same.”

“Any attempt to downplay or deny that is an excuse to avoid taking action in response to JVP and SJP’s blatant violation of their Nov. 10 suspension terms and to excuse their calls for genocide through the back door,” he said.

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