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Columbia University is moving classes remotely after a wave of campus protests. : NPR

Students occupy the Columbia University campus Friday, calling on the school to divest from companies with ties to Israel.

Alex Kent/AFP via Getty Images


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Alex Kent/AFP via Getty Images


Students occupy the Columbia University campus Friday, calling on the school to divest from companies with ties to Israel.

Alex Kent/AFP via Getty Images

Columbia University announced that all classes would be taught remotely Monday in an effort to “defuse resentment” amid growing tensions on campus over Israel’s war in Gaza.

“The decibel of our disagreements has only increased in recent days,” school president Minouche Shafik said in a statement. “We need a reset.”

The move to virtual learning comes just days after dozens of Columbia students were suspended and arrested over a protest encampment on the school lawn that called for the university to divest from companies with ties to Israel.

Meanwhile, at Yale University on Monday morning, officers arrested students who had also set up tents on campus, urging the university to disengage. The Yale Police Department told NPR that 40 to 45 people were arrested.

The hot spots are the latest in a months-long series of unrest on college campuses since Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7. The attackers killed 1,200 people and took around 250 others hostage, Israel said.

Israel’s subsequent invasion of Gaza killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of whom were women and children, according to local health authorities. Israel says there are around 100 hostages remaining in Gaza.

Columbia University rabbi advises Jewish students to stay home

On Wednesday, Columbia students opposed to the Israeli war and blockade of Gaza set up camp on the school’s south lawn, in what was called the “Gaza Solidarity Camp.” That was the same day Shafik told Congress that anti-Semitism was a serious problem on campus and would not be tolerated.

The next day, Shafik called the New York police. In a statement, she said the protest posed “a clear and present danger to the substantial functioning of the University.” She said students received multiple warnings that they were violating campus protocol. More than 100 people were taken into custody.

Tensions remained high on campus all weekend. On Sunday, Elie Buechler, a rabbi who works at Columbia, advised Jewish students to go home and stay home, citing safety concerns. His message came a day before the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover.

“It pains me greatly to say that I strongly recommend that you return home as soon as possible and stay home until the reality on and around campus has significantly improved,” Buechler wrote during a group discussion with students.

He also expressed disappointment with the administration’s response to anti-Semitism on campus. According to the Spectator, as students played Israeli music and waved the Israeli flag during a demonstration Saturday evening, an individual approached with a sign reading “Al Qasam’s next targets.” (The Al-Qassam Brigades are the military wing of Hamas, responsible for numerous attacks against Israel.)

Columbia University did not immediately respond to NPR’s request for comment.

Students from schools across the United States organize solidarity encampments

The arrests themselves drew sharp criticism on and off campus.

The editorial board of the student newspaper, the Colombia Daily Spectatorwrote that the university had ignored “countless calls for meaningful dialogue with students, choosing instead to continue down a path of surveillance, oppression, and authoritarian policies.”

The American Association of University Professors chapter at Columbia University and Barnard College said it condemned the arrest of students participating in peaceful protests.

“We demand that all suspensions and charges from Barnard College and Columbia University be immediately dropped,” the chapter said in a statement. statement SATURDAY.

In recent days, students from other schools have organized their own protest camp, largely in solidarity with the arrested Columbia students. They also called for divestment from Israel.

According to media and social media posts, encampments were held at Yale, New York University, MIT, Tufts University, Emerson College and the New York-based New School .

At Yale, around 40 tents and hundreds of demonstrators occupied Beinecke Plaza, in the center of campus, starting Friday evening, according to the Yale Daily News. The student newspaper also reported Sunday evening that the protest “remained peaceful.”

On Monday morning, a Yale spokesperson said YDN“The university made the decision to arrest individuals who did not want to leave the Plaza with the safety and security of the entire Yale community in mind and to allow access to university facilities at all members of our community.”

Universities crack down on student activists

Columbia and Yale aren’t the only schools where leaders are taking action against student protesters on their campuses.

Earlier this month, three Vanderbilt University students were expelled after a group of student protesters broke into the university president’s office, injuring a campus security officer, according to the Vanderbilt Hustler student newspaper.

Last week, the University of Southern California canceled its valedictorian’s commencement address due to unspecified security concerns. At the time, valedictorian Asna Tabassum, a first-generation Muslim American, sparked controversy with her social media posts related to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

“Over the past few days, discussions surrounding the selection of our valedictorian have taken on an alarming tenor,” Andrew T. Guzmam, dean and senior vice president for academic affairs at USC, said in a statement Monday .

On Saturday, the University of Pennsylvania announced the closure of the student group Penn Students Against the Occupation of Palestine for failing to comply with policies that govern student organizations at Penn. UPenn did not immediately respond to NPR’s request for comment.

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