Home / General / “Campus free speech” crisis becomes “students on campus are saying things we disagree with” crisis

“Campus free speech” crisis becomes “students on campus are saying things we disagree with” crisis

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Apparently strongly committed to not being the latest pelt for angry donors, Columbia’s leadership appeared before Congress yesterday and agreed to various investigations and firings without even suggesting that academic freedom might be an important consideration in the process. Today, they demonstrated that they got the campus free speech “speech members of Congress disagree with” message:

More than 100 people protesting the war in Gaza were cleared off Columbia University’s campus, arrested and charged with trespassing on Thursday, a day after the university’s president testified before Congress as part of an investigation into antisemitism at colleges.

Having been summoned by Columbia President Minouche Shafik in what she described as “an extraordinary step” to keep the campus safe, New York Police Department officers in riot gear entered the encampment with zip ties in the early afternoon and systematically arrested protesters, who offered little resistance.

Tejasri Vijayakumar, Columbia College student body president, started sobbing, completely shocked, when she heard NYPD had moved in. Columbia’s gates have been closed all week, so only people with a university identification can get in; it was a peaceful student protest, she said. “Why not let Public Safety handle it?” she asked, or continue negotiating.

“People are furious,” she said. Many people were frightened, as well, she said, but the fear didn’t make the crowds dwindle. The administration’s move has only fueled the fire, she said.

Students who participated in the encampment would be suspended, Shafik said in a letter to New York police.

If there’s any evidence that this protest was a threat to student “safety” that would justify an immediate and recently unprecedented crackdown by armed police, the administration certainly doesn’t seem to be providing it. Nor would it be easy to argue that this is a viewpoint-neutral enforcement of space-time-and-manner-rules. Indeed, I remember the idea that being exposed to speech one disagreed with constituted harassment or threat to safety being treated with derision by both conservatives and the mainstream press like it was 10 minutes ago.

…They’re not merely suspending students but kicking them out of their dorm rooms effective immediately? Jesus. Talk about working toward the Stefanik.

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