- Columbia University is suspending two pro-Palestinan student organizations for the remainder of the fall term and cutting them off from institutional funding for flouting policies on hosting campus events.
- Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace will no longer be able to hold events, Gerald Rosberg, the Ivy League institution’s senior executive vice president and chair of a university safety committee, said in a statement Friday. Rosberg said the groups had violated Columbia’s rules multiple times, but the catalyst for the ban was an “unauthorized event” Thursday, a student walkout that called for a ceasefire in the latest Israel-Hamas war.
- Rosberg said to lift the suspension, the groups must demonstrate they will follow university policies and meet with Columbia officials. Representatives from the two campus chapters did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.
Ever since the war in the Middle East reignited early last month, colleges have grappled with balancing free speech considerations while attempting to ease political tensions.
Some institutions have taken a more hard-line approach, however. The leader of the State University System of Florida last month demanded chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine, or SJP, disband, characterizing them as terrorist sympathizers.
Chancellor Ray Rodrigues, with the backing of the state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, said the national wing of the group supported Hamas, a militant organization the U.S. government and other nations have deemed a terrorist organization.
The state leaders argued the group violated a Florida law that bans support for terrorists by issuing a “toolkit” that described the initial Hamas attack on Israel as “the resistance.”
However, they later walked back the order, noting a potential legal clash.
Columbia is at least the second private college to suspend SJP, after Brandeis University, a historically Jewish institution in Massachusetts, did so recently.
It is the first prominent private nonprofit to make headlines for banning Jewish Voice for Peace. Rosberg said the two groups had proceeded with Thursday’s walkout, “despite warnings.” He also said the event “included threatening rhetoric and intimidation.”
The two groups appeared to have infringed on the university’s rule that typically requires at least 10 days’ notice for an event held on the campus grounds, according to reporting by the university’s student press, the Columbia Daily Spectator.
The walkout featured hundreds of students. At one point it devolved when an attendee began screaming antisemitic and anti-Black statements and trying to fight other people there, the Spectator reported.