Columbia University president addresses concerns amid challenges faced by Ivy League counterparts

Elise Stefanik, a New York congresswoman aligned with Trump in the Republican party, had a notable political moment last December.

During a congressional hearing, Elise Stefanik questioned the presidents of two Ivy League universities, sparking widespread criticism of their refusal to address the issue of calls for Jewish genocide violating school policies. Both Harvard’s Claudine Gay and the University of Pennsylvania’s Liz Magill stepped down afterward.

Further reading: Harvard, Penn, and MIT presidents provoke outrage with ‘unacceptable’ responses to antisemitism

While Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania presidents faced fallout for their responses, Columbia University’s Minouche Shafik, who was invited to testify but couldn’t due to travel, faced a second invitation from congressional Republicans amid ongoing protests over the Israel-Hamas conflict on her Manhattan campus.

In a Washington hearing, Shafik and other university administrators addressed campus discrimination, signaling a departure from their Ivy League counterparts. Shafik unequivocally affirmed that urging the genocide of Jewish people would violate Columbia’s standards, contrasting with the legalistic responses from Harvard and UPenn.

Rep. Aaron Bean lauded Shafik, saying, “Columbia beats Harvard and UPenn” by condemning antisemitism directly rather than relying on nuanced statements.

David Greenwald, Columbia’s board of trustees co-chair, expressed deep dismay over campus antisemitism during the hearing.

Wednesday’s hearing shined a bipartisan spotlight on university leaders’ actions amid rising concerns of discrimination against Jewish and Muslim students, with Columbia under investigation by the Office of Civil Rights.

The hearing indicated broader conservative critiques of higher education, with some viewing it as a part of a pattern of attacks on college campuses. Academic groups condemned this trend as reminiscent of McCarthyism, stating that safeguarding campus culture shouldn’t come at the cost of free inquiry and expression.

Rep. Bobby Scott criticized the committee for not addressing Islamophobia’s rise on campuses, while protests in support of Gaza surfaced at Columbia during the hearing.

The day after the hearing saw a lawsuit against Columbia by a Jewish student suspended for a campus incident, highlighting ongoing tensions on campus.

Shafik highlighted the detrimental role of anonymous messaging platforms like Sidechat in fueling hate on campus and called for improved content moderation.

Columbia faced a bizarre moment during the hearing when a congressman asked Shafik if she wanted the university to be “cursed by God,” showing the complexities of discussing sensitive topics in congressional settings.

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