June 11, 2024
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Columbia University Settles Lawsuit Filed by Jewish Student, Providing ‘Safe Passage Liaison’

‘Free Palestine’ graffiti at Columbia University subway station, replaced with ‘Free the Hostages.’

The entire country, and much of the free world, was watching as antisemitism at Columbia University reared its ugly head. The images of the encampment excluding “Zionists” and of Jewish students being harassed will not soon leave our minds.

Litigators filed lawsuits against the university in connection with this Jew hatred. One of those lawsuits has just been settled.

The proposed class action lawsuit at issue was filed in April by a Jewish Columbia student who claimed that the Ivy failed to provide a safe educational environment. The complaint alleged, in part, that protesters were violent, intimidated and harassed Jewish students and faculty, and erected an encampment which served as the center for harassment of Jews.

The examples of alleged harassment in the complaint are endless, such as a reference to when Shai Davidai, an Israeli-born Jewish Columbia professor who has been extremely outspoken and highly critical of Columbia’s response to antisemitism was at one point barred from entering campus due to supposed “safety concerns.”

Insofar as the disruption to students’ education, the complaint notes, among other things, that classes were interrupted by loud protests, some students were blocked from attending lectures and other academic activities, and Columbia eventually canceled mandatory in-person learning.

Describing part of the settlement, a June 4 AP article states: “Under the agreement, Columbia must create a new point of contact—a Safe Passage Liaison—for students worried for their safety. The liaison will handle student safety concerns and coordinate any student requests for escorts through an existing escort program, which must remain available 24/7 through at least Dec. 31, according to the agreement.”

Giving his reaction to the settlement, Davidai told The Jewish Link: “The settlement shows two things that are very clear. One is that this is an actual legal admission by Columbia that they have a problem with antisemitism. That is why they are offering the students, basically, bodyguards.

“But the second thing, maybe the more troubling thing, is that this shows that Columbia is unwilling to deal with the root cause of the problem, and instead is dealing with the symptoms. It’s like giving a person with cancer Band-Aids and sending them home with a few Advils. This is just unacceptable.”

In a written statement given to The Jewish Link, a university spokesperson said: “We are pleased we have been able to come to a resolution and remain committed to our number one priority: the safety of our campus so that all of our students can successfully pursue their education and meet their academic goals.”

There has been much buzz within the Jewish community about what the campus climate will be for Jewish students in fall 2024. Will there once again be comparisons drawn to the antisemitism of German universities in the 1930s? It is certainly difficult to predict.

We will not forget the sheer hatred displayed towards Jews at academic institutions. As a masked protester at Columbia University stated on April 18: “Never forget the 7th of October. That will happen not one more time, not five more times, not 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000. The seventh of October is going to be every day for you.”

Universities: Do better.


Judith Falk is the creator of the Upper West Side Shtetl Facebook Group. You can follow her on instagram @upperwestsideshtetl. She is a lawyer by day and a former legal reporter.

 

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