Columbia University Suspends 2 Pro-Palestinian Student Groups
Both groups urged students to demand governments cut off all aid to Israel and to call for an immediate ceasefire.
NEW YORK CITY — Columbia University has suspended two student groups for allegedly violating school policies.
Citing repeated violations of policies related to holding campus events, as well as an “unauthorized event” Thursday afternoon that involved “threatening rhetoric and intimidation,” the Chair of the Special Committee on Campus Safety announced Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) would be suspended for the remainder of the fall semester, CBS New York reports.
Columbia’s SJP is part of a national organization that aims “to develop a student movement that is connected, disciplined, and equipped with the tools necessary to achieve Palestinian liberation,” according to its website. JVP, which has 70 local chapters, including 12 on college campuses, describes itself as “the largest progressive Jewish anti-Zionist organization in the world” with a “plan to end U.S. support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.”
“Suspension means the two groups will not be eligible to hold events on campus or receive University funding. Lifting the suspension will be contingent on the two groups demonstrating a commitment to compliance with University policies and engaging in consultations at a group leadership level with University officials,” the committee wrote. “Like all student groups, SJP and JVP are required to abide by University policies and procedures. This ensures both the safety of our community and that core University activities can be conducted without disruption. During this especially charged time on our campus, we are strongly committed to giving space to student groups to participate in debate, advocacy, and protest. This relies on community members abiding by the rules and cooperating with University administrators who have a duty to ensure the safety of everyone in our community.”
University event policy generally requires groups to apply for permits at least 10 working days in advance of any demonstration or protest in order to hold events on school grounds. A speaker at the rally, who did not disclose their name, told The Columbia Spectator that the university offered to reduce the timeline to three to five business days and that the speaker demanded it be put into writing.
Both student groups posted on Instagram promoting a Nov. 9 event titled, “Shut It Down For Palestine,” which was described as a walkout and “peaceful protest art installation” on the steps of the campus’ Low Library Building. Similar events were held on campuses across the country on the same day, according to Inside Higher Ed.
Social media posts from the event show pieces of plywood painted with images of the Palestinian flag, names of Palestinian civilians who have been killed in Gaza, and phrases related to the anti-Zionist movement, among other things. Flyers distributed at the event urged students across the nation to demand governments cut off all aid to Israel and to call for an immediate ceasefire. SJP and JVP also demanded the university take action by calling Israel’s attacks a genocide and canceling its business interests and partnerships in Israel.
In a statement, JVP called the suspension an “appalling act of censorship and intimidation by the administration” and said the university is “spuriously claiming that these groups violated university policy when calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, where over 11,000 civilians have lost their lives, including at least 4,500 children.”
“The students in these groups are acting with moral clarity. They are protesting war and trying to save lives by calling for a ceasefire,” the statement continued. “By suspending Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine, Columbia has made a statement that Palestinians, students who support Palestinian rights, and Jewish students who reject the state of Israel’s actions in their name, are unwelcome on campus.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which aims to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all,” has condemned JVP for championing ideas it says could give rise to antisemitism and for posting anti-semitic content. Some Pro-Palestinian student organizations, including SJP, have been criticized for their initial response to the Israel-Hamas war, which said the Israeli regime “is entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” The ADL has called for an investigation into all officially recognized campus chapters of SJP.
Other organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have criticized attempts to suspend SJP chapters and other pro-Palestinian organizations, urging leaders not to “disband or penalize student groups on the basis of their exercise of free speech rights.”
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