Columbia University President faces congressional hearing on campus antisemitism

Minouche Shafik, the president of Columbia University was questioned by House panel at a congressional hearing on campus antisemitism on April 17.

Having cancelled the December hearing owing to her travel schedule, Columbia University President Minouche Shafik attended a congressional hearing on campus antisemitism on April 17, facing a similar question that resulted in the removing of the presidents of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania from their posts. Shafik learnt from their mistakes, and when she faced the question “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Columbia’s code of conduct?”, her reply was “Yes.”

Shafik, who assumed the presidency of Columbia days before the devastating October 7 Hamas massacre in Israel, was accompanied to the hearing by three co-panelists — two of whom are Jewish and all of whom are in positions of senior leadership at Columbia, reports The Times of Isreal.

When all four replied „yes“ to the now-infamous question, one Republican sarcastically congratulated them on “beating” Harvard, Penn, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The discourse on campus antisemitism has significantly changed since the December hearing, and campus protests (both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel) has been on the rise. Over the course of the hearing, Shafik pointed to actions she’s taken to curb antisemitism, such as suspending pro-Palestinian student groups; agreed that some professors had crossed the line with their rhetoric.

Nevertheless, Shafik’s effort to show that she was on top of the issue was countered at times by both Republicans and Democrats, representing a narrative that seemed to point out that Shafik and her leadership had been negligent in their handling of antisemitism on campus since October 7.

Republican Representative Elise Stefanik told Shafik “You have no action, no disciplinary action,” accusing her of indulgence regarding professors making comments supporting Hamas and the October 7 terrorist attack, referring to pro-Hamas Professor Joseph Massad. When Shafik said that one of the steps she took was talking to Massad, Stefanik said “Speaking to these professors is not enough. And it’s sending a message across the university that this is tolerated, these antisemitic statements from a person with a position of authority in this classroom is tolerated.”

Along with Stefanik, Republican Representative Tim Walberg also grilled Shafik with respect to Professor Joseph Massad.

Walberg Stunned By Columbia Pres’s Response To Professor Who Made ‘Perverse’ Statement After Oct. 7

At today’s House Education Committee hearing, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) grilled Columbia University President Minouche Shafik about a professor who celebrated the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas. Fuel your success with Forbes. Gain unlimited access to premium journalism, including breaking news, groundbreaking in-depth reported stories, daily digests and more.

Stefanik Secures Columbia President’s Commitment to Remove Antisemitic Professor from Leadership

Uploaded by Rep. Elise Stefanik on 2024-04-17.

Shafik stated that faculty on campus who have praised Hamas since October 7, along with at least one pro-Israel faculty member are currently under investigation. Shafik added thatseveral students have been disciplined or suspended for participation in antisemitic and harassing incidents.

The pro-Israeli faculty member is in fact outspoken university critic Shai Davidai, who have been accused of targeting pro-Palestinian students. On X, Davidai accused Shafik of lying.

“The President of Columbia knows for a FACT that I’ve never attacked any of our students,” he wrote. “She knows I have been only speaking out against pro-Islamic Jihad organizations, their radical leaders, and terrorist-loving professors. She lied under oath.”

Still, Shafik and the other panelists — Columbia antisemitism task force co-chair and former law school dean David Schizer, and board of trustees co-chairs David Greenwald and Claire Shipman — acknowledged that antisemitism has been a problem on campus and they have more work to do to fix it.

After Shafik stated that she has not seen any campus protests “against Jewish people,” Stefanik pushed her on whether she believed that various chants caught on tape at campus protests, including “F–k the Jews,” were antisemitic. Other Republicans questioned Columbia’s commitment to diversity by suggesting that pro-Israel students were repressing their views.

Stefanik Secures Columbia President’s Commitment to Remove Antisemitic Professor from Leadership

Uploaded by Rep. Elise Stefanik on 2024-04-17.

The hearing came during a particularly sensitive moment for Columbia, which has faced multiple Title VI discrimination investigations and lawsuits over how it has addressed activism surrounding Israel.



Full recording on the hearing:

Photo credit: Jose Luis Magana/AP