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Columbia University Group Passes Censorship Resolution Against President

Columbia University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences passed a resolution of censure against the school’s president, Nemat Shafik, on Thursday, saying she had violated the “fundamental requirements of academic freedom and of shared governance” and engaged in an “unprecedented attack on students’ rights.

The move, while largely symbolic, underscores the anger Dr. Shafik faces on campus as she attempts to recover from her confrontational handling of pro-Palestinian protests and her public pledge before a congressional committee last month latter that she would discipline several faculty members who had espoused views against Israel that some called anti-Semitic.

The censure resolution was introduced by the university chapter of the American Association of University Professors, a professional organization of professors. Of the 709 teachers who voted, 65 percent were in favor of the resolution and 29 percent against. Six percent abstained.

The resolution particularly criticized Dr. Shafik’s decision to call police to campus to clear a pro-Palestinian student encampment on April 18, even after the University Senate Executive Committee unanimously told him not to do it. The resolution said she “falsely asserted” that the students posed “a clear and present danger to the substantial operation of the university,” arguing instead that they were peaceful.

She also violated standards of academic freedom when she promised to fire faculty members during her testimony before a congressional committee on anti-Semitism on April 17, the resolution said.

“The president’s choices to ignore our statutes and our standards of academic freedom and shared governance, to have our students arrested and to impose the confinement of our campus with a continuous police presence, have seriously undermined our confidence in her” , indicates the resolution.

Dr. Shafik has not made any public appearances before students since she called police to clear protesters from Hamilton Hall, a campus building, on April 30, aside from a video the school released online this month in which she addressed the wider academic community. Citing security concerns, she kept the main campus in a state of partial lockdown for more than two weeks and canceled the main graduation ceremony that she would have presided over.

“President Shafik continues to consult regularly with community members, including faculty, administration and administrators, as well as state, city and community leaders,” said Ben Chang, Door -Columbia spokesperson, in a comment. “She appreciates the efforts of those who work alongside her on the long road to healing our community. »

The numerous small graduation ceremonies for each of Columbia’s 19 colleges went relatively smoothly, but they were not without signs of protest. Some students wore black and white kaffiyehs; others unfurled small Palestinian flags. The valedictorian of Columbia College, the university’s main undergraduate school, held up a sign reading: “Strip” as she walked around the stage.

Outside of the ceremonies, a few people handed out flyers to friends and family waiting in line to address protesters’ demands, including that the school divest from companies that work with Israel. A billboard truck also rotated from time to time, displaying a photo of Dr. Shafik on a bright red background with the text “IT’S TIME TO REIGN!” »

Saham David Ahmed Ali, a student at the university’s Mailman School of Public Health, used her graduation speech to call for a ceasefire in Gaza and outline the demands of pro-Palestinian protesters, receiving large cheers. His microphone briefly cut out during his speech: a university spokesperson called it an unintentional technical problem.

The relatively small protests contrasted with those at other city schools, including the New School and parts of the public City University of New York, where larger protests have taken place in recent days . Students from CUNY and New York University also briefly occupied buildings, but resigned without police intervention.

Another group of Columbia students and faculty circulated an open letter calling on Dr. Shafik to better increase security on campus and saying they supported his efforts to quell protesters. That letter, signed Thursday by hundreds of people, including alumni, parents and others unconnected to the university, mentioned several incidents it called anti-Semitic.

The group that introduced the censure resolution against Dr. Shafik does not “represent many faculty and students at Columbia University,” the letter states.

As she attempts to overcome tensions, Dr. Shafik has held private meetings with faculty and other members of the Columbia community to repair connections and find a way forward without resigning. (Three other Ivy League presidents have resigned in the past six months, although it is not clear whether all of their departures were related to tensions over the Gaza war and resulting protests.)

On Wednesday, Dr. Shafik wrote a conciliatory note to students and published it in the school newspaper in lieu of a graduation speech.

“You may not agree with every decision made by University leaders, but know that they came from a concern for the common good of Columbia,” she wrote. She added that she would “look back on the Class of 2024 with special admiration and affection.”

The resolution, adopted by the college’s largest faculty group, passed with 458 votes in favor, 206 against and 45 abstentions. Of the 899 faculty members eligible to vote, 709 completed a ballot. It appears to be the first time Columbia’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences has passed a vote of no confidence in a president, several faculty members said.

On April 26, the University Senate, composed of 111 delegates from across Colombia, passed a resolution calling for an investigation into Dr. Shafik’s actions, but stopped short of censure. This resolution accused the administration of violating established protocols, undermining academic freedom, compromising freedom of inquiry, and violating the due process rights of students and faculty.

Although critical, Thursday’s censure resolution was not a call for Dr. Shafik’s resignation, said Robert Newton, an oceanographer at Columbia and a member of the executive committee of the American Association of University Professors. Instead, he charted a path forward.

“A vote of no confidence in the president is the first step toward rebuilding our community and restoring the university’s core values ​​of free speech, the right to peaceful assembly, and shared governance,” the resolution states. .

There are approximately 4,700 full-time faculty at Columbia, of which the Faculty of Arts and Sciences represents approximately 20 percent. Many of the student protesters who were disciplined and arrested study with arts and sciences teachers, “so it makes sense that they would be the ones speaking out most strongly on this issue,” Dr. Newton said.

Liset Cruz reports contributed.



News Source : www.nytimes.com
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