Students Told To Leave For Their Own Safety

( – Protests over the Israeli government have rocked Columbia University in recent weeks. A congresswoman’s daughter was even arrested at the demonstrations. A rabbi has now warned Jewish students to leave the campus for their safety.

Encampment Woes and Congressional Testimony

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik testified to a House subcommittee on April 17 about the school’s handling of antisemitism and pro-Palestine protesters. On the day of her testimony, a coalition of groups established the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” on the South Lawn of the university’s campus.

As we previously reported, the NYPD arrested Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) daughter, who attends Barnard College, for participating in the sit-in. Authorities broke up the encampment the day after it was set up, and some of the students involved were suspended from school.

Rabbi’s Warning

On April 21, Rabbi Elie Buechler sent a message to more than 290 Jewish students on WhatsApp. He was responding to the encampment days earlier and other protests condemning Israel for its brutal war in the Gaza Strip following the October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas. The Gaza Health Ministry has claimed more than 34,000 Palestinians have died in the conflict, though those numbers are likely not accurate. The Hamas-run ministry has admitted it has “incomplete data” for more than 11,000 of those deaths.

Rabbi Buechler, who is part of the Union Jewish Learning Initiative, said the protests on campus were “terrible and tragic.” He said that they also made it clear that neither the NYPD nor Columbia University’s Public Safety could “guarantee Jewish students’ safety in the face of extreme antisemitism and anarchy.”

The rabbi told the students that they should return home as soon as they could, until the “reality in and around campus has dramatically improved.”

Hybrid Classes

The day after the rabbi sent the letter, on April 22, President Shafik issued a statement telling the students that she decided to hold all classes virtually that day. She allowed the staff and faculty to work remotely as well.

Later in the day, Columbia University Chief Operating Officer Cas Holloway announced the school was moving to a hybrid schedule for the remainder of the semester. The teachers who are on the main campus and have the ability to hold virtual classes are required to do so for students who need it. Classes that don’t have virtual capabilities are being encouraged “to provide other accommodations liberally to students who have requested support for virtual learning.”

The school is now facing calls to refund tuition for the virtual classes, arguing in-person learning is vital to student success. The school has not responded.

Copyright 2024,