Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Columbia's EMPTY THREATS Deadlines came and went. Promises were made and never kept.


Columbia University administrators seemed poised to take a brave stand against ongoing student protests Monday — and then totally wimped out, cowering in the face of student activists.

This morning, school president Minouche Shafik steadfastly announced on the school’s website that Columbia would not divest its endowment from Israel. 

“The university will not divest from Israel,” Shafik courageously declared, while also acknowledging that negotiations to clear student protesters — who have been camped out on campus since April 17 — had been unsuccessful.

Ball in her court, Shafik laid down a new 2 p.m. deadline for the “liberated zone” to empty and the camp to be dismantled.

But student protesters — threatened with suspension if they failed to clear out on time — seemed dubious that the administration would really follow through. After all, there have already been multiple eviction deadlines that the school let pass without incident.

Little seemed to be going on in the camp in the morning and early afternoon hours. I saw bins full of fresh bed sheets and tampons, and buffet-style trays of food laid out for campers.

Around 1:30, campers formed a picket line and began marching around the encampment chanting, “Disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest.”

Teaching staff, clad in orange vests with the word “Faculty” plastered on the back, gathered to stand guard near entrances to the encampment.

As the clock ticked ever closer to the deadline, I heard a student organizer on a megaphone vow that it will be “hard to disperse us” and declare: “We will not back down. We will not be moved unless by force.”

This was the moment for Columbia’s leadership to stand strong: Enforce school policies. Sweep the encampment.

Two p.m. came … and went. Nothing happened.

Campus security remained largely out of sight. While the NYPD reportedly were ready and waiting to help, they had no presence on campus — something the university itself would have to authorize, as it is private property.

And so students continued to march well past 2 p.m., their faces still covered with keffiyeh to obscure their identities.

“Shafik has blood on her hands,” one protester shouted.

Shafik, by the way, was nowhere to be seen.

“Globalize the intifada,” students chanted in unison. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Meanwhile, the crowd outside campus gates — where protesters without Columbia IDs have gathered for days, supposedly in solidarity but seemingly to incite the kids inside to stay put — grew rowdier and rowdier.

The stench of un-showered students and trays of food baking in the sun wafted over campus as student protesters screamed at the top of their lungs and helicopters hovered overhead: the furthest thing from an elite university in the midst of final exam season that you can imagine.

Marching continued until around 4 p.m., with student protesters slowly sputtering out under the heat of the sun. But hey, that’s the only heat they felt: They made it past yet another deadline with no repercussions.

By evening, the university finally began to suspend students who refused to leave — prohibiting their ability to come and go on campus. But the camp still stood, as if administrators hoped that cutting off access to library bathrooms would make protesters pack it in.

In delaying time and again, and attempting to appease both sides, Columbia has only pissed off everyone in the process.

The one brave thing Shafik has done was to clear the first encampment two Thursdays ago. One hundred-plus students were handcuffed by NYPD and amply warned they were in violation of campus policies and resigned to the fate of being arrested.

But then the president let the camp pop back up all over again — and did just about nothing to stop it.

Deadlines came and went. Promises were made and never kept.

Other universities have handled this much better — like Princeton, where students were swept up by police practically as soon as they started pitching tents in the courtyard.

University leadership are responsible for the application of rules, with consistency and transparency. Columbia’s administration has done precisely the opposite.

And now, angry, emboldened student protesters know that the school is not good for its word.

1 comment:

Professor Ryesky said...