Jewish student brings lawsuit against Columbia for losing control of its campus, saying pupils don’t feel safe

Michelle Del Rey
Tuesday 30 April 2024 16:17 BST
Columbia students respond to university’s request to vacate

Columbia University is being sued by a Jewish student who says she felt unsafe after major protests were launched against the Israel-Hamas war on school grounds.

The lawsuit was filed by the sophomore student whose name not known due to redactions in the filing. She is currently attending the university. The Trustees of Columbia University are listed as the only defendants in the suit.

According to the filing, the student alleges that there is a group of protesters committing acts of violence, intimidating and harassing Jewish students and faculty members, and inciting demonstrators to engage in hate speech.

Some of the violent acts cited include punching, shoving and spitting on Jewish students, in addition to blocking them from attending classes, moving freely around campus and being verbally harassed, the filing states.

The student argues that protesters have chanted “Death to the Jews” and “Love live Hamas”. In a photo included in the filing, a student is seen holding up a sign reading “Al-Qasam’s next target” in front of students flying the Israeli flag.

The filing also says that some demonstrators have called for terrorist attacks against the US.

Columbia University issued a notice to protesters asking them to disband their encampment after negotiations failed to come to a resolution
Columbia University issued a notice to protesters asking them to disband their encampment after negotiations failed to come to a resolution ( Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Protests against the war broke out earlier this month after USC declined to let valedictorian Asna Tabassum, a Muslim student, give a commencement address citing safety concerns. USC officials did not elaborate on what the specific concerns were.

Other encampments have been established at Brown University, the University of Michigan, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and California State Polytechnic, Humboldt.

The conflict in the Middle East began on 7 October with the Hamas terror attacks in Israel, in which 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 taken hostage. More than 30,000 Palestinians are thought to have been killed in subsequent Israeli attacks against Gaza.

The lawsuit argues that the ongoing protests “have been calculated to disrupt the normal functioning of Columbia and to overshadow the voices of those engaging in constitutionally protected speech and protest”.

Separately, the filing states that Columbia University has done little to stop the protests from happening.

“Despite its supposed commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, Columbia has allowed a small group of fringe demonstrators to target Jewish students and faculty with harassment, hate speech and violence for the sole reason that they are (or appear to be) Jewish”.

The filing did not specify a specific amount of damages being sought but any damages incurred would be split between the plaintiff and Columbia University students.

The Independent has emailed Columbia University and the Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine coalition for comment.

On Monday, students on campus passed a 2pm ET deadline for removing the current encampment. Around 80 tents and dozens of protestors were on the encampment around that time. University officials previously stated that if students remained on the encampment after the deadline, they’d begin issuing suspensions.

After the deadline passed, Columbia announced that it had started suspending students.

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