Thursday, May 02, 2024

 by Daled Amos

Meet Columbia University President Minouche Shafik:

At the very least, Shafik did not seem to be quite as tongue-tied and did end up trying to defend antisemitism.

But she did not come across as being in control of the university.

Yet, by Tuesday she seemed to handle the demonstrations and encampments better than some other universities did.

For example, The New York Times optimistically reported: At Brown, a Rare Agreement Between Administrators and Protesters.

Some agreement!
“Although the encampment will end, organizing to ensure that the Brown administration fulfills our calls to act on divestment will continue until the corporation vote in October,” the Brown Divest Coalition said in a statement on Tuesday.

“This feels like a real moment of realizing our collective power,” said Rafi Ash, a sophomore at Brown who participated in the protests. “This is something that demonstrates that the mobilization of the student body can force the university to listen.
In other words, the University will have five permanent scholarships for students and two visiting Palestinian faculty in perpetuity, given that they can find a donor, which shouldn’t be hard if Qatar is around.

The National Review reports that Northwestern caved on other demands as well

Other concessions in the deal Schill and the rest of Northwestern’s leadership struck with the encampment occupants — one of whom assaulted a student journalist attempting to take video — include student oversight of the university’s partnerships with suppliers and the investment of its endowment.

“The University will include students in a process dedicated to implementing broad input on University dining services, including residential and retail vendors on campus,” Northwestern’s leadership wrote, as well as forming a committee on “investment responsibility” with “representation from students, faculty, and staff.”
Compare that to Columbia, where the university seemed to take a strong stand, calling in the NYPD who cleared out the protestors who had barricaded themselves inside Hamilton Hall. Nothing like the timid university president above who, like others who testified before Congress before her, appeared indecisive on how to protect the students, especially Jews, who are her responsibility.

But look at the Message From the President, where Shafik describes how "patient" the board had been with what she admits were "unauthorized demonstrations." As it turned out, the fact that the university made no concessions had nothing to do with any determination or strength of will on the part of the school. Instead, the demonstrators didn't get the concessions that Brown and Northwestern did because they overplayed their hand. 

Shafik writes:
The University offered to consider new proposals on divestment and shareholder activism, to review access to our dual degree programs and global centers, to reaffirm our commitment to free speech, and to launch educational and health programs in Gaza and the West Bank. Some other universities have achieved agreement on similar proposals.
Now that they see that other universities were forced to make major concessions, will the students quietly return to the classrooms and finish the school year? The university president thinks so, suggesting that the students "will use the weeks ahead to restore calm, allow students to complete their academic work, and honor their achievements at Commencement."

But in that same message, Shafik suggests that the disruption and destruction that Columbia has faced is not the work of the students alone, but rather "outside activists."

She may have a point.

Jonathan Schanzer, Senior Vice President of Research for the. Foundation for Defense of Democracies confirmed the influence of these outside activists during the Monday edition of his FDD Morning Brief. Here is a short excerpt that he tweeted:

In a nutshell:

Hat tip: Ian

Several agitators busted Tuesday night when police raided encampments at Columbia University and the City College of New York are seasoned anti-Israel protesters who don’t even attend the Big Apple schools.
If Shafik and Schanzer are right, and there are external influences (let alone outside funding) at play here, how can the university president be sure that the worst is over? At Columbia and other universities, the protestors have gotten away with too much for too long.

Equally worrying is that in her message, Shafik makes no mention of Jews, Israel, or October 7. She and the trustees ignore the context of the protests, convincing themselves that they are dealing with a reawakening of the 1960's.
Columbia has a long and proud tradition of protest and activism on many important issues such as the Vietnam War, civil rights, and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. Today’s protesters are also fighting for an important cause, for the rights of Palestinians and against the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza. They have many supporters in our community and have a right to express their views and engage in peaceful protest.
Columbia University has no idea what is happening or what they are dealing with.

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