Columbia sued over failure to protect Jewish students

State troopers try to break up a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Texas Wednesday April 24, 2024, in Austin, Texas. Student protests over the Israel-Hamas war have popped up on an increasing number of college campuses following last week's arrest of more than 100 demonstrators at Columbia University. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

(ADI NIRMAN /JNS / Israel Hayom) — Columbia University is facing a class action lawsuit accusing it of failing to keep Jewish students safe amid the wave of anti-Israel protests that have disrupted the Ivy League campus.

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The anonymous student plaintiff filed the lawsuit on Apr. 29. It acknowledges the right to peaceful protest and open debate at colleges. However, the lawsuit alleges that a number of demonstrations have gone beyond acceptable bounds, “intimidating and harassing Jewish students and faculty members” as well as “inciting demonstrators to engage in hate speech” and even “committing acts of violence,” according to the New York Post

The filing says the protesters have “called for terrorist attacks against the United States and the State of Israel.” It describes Jewish students being physically attacked and targeted with “pro-Hamas hate speech” by aggressive factions within the protest movement.

The lawsuit accuses Columbia of effectively condoning this behavior through inaction, allowing an extremely unsafe environment to fester on campus for Jewish and pro-Israel students.

Attorney Jay Edelson, representing the plaintiffs, told News Nation the university has completely abdicated its responsibility.

“Before a couple of weeks ago, Columbia would tell anyone who would listen that it offered a safe space to its students to learn, debate and even protest,” Edelson said. “But now Jewish students are being pushed off campus by open threats and harassment from extremists within the protest movement, whose incitements are becoming increasingly violent.

“Rather than protect its students, Columbia has been complicit, offering an ‘internet-optional’ university that only the students it can’t protect have to use,” the lawyer continued. “We’re fighting for safe passage for all Columbia students on the campus that they all have a right to.”

The suit takes particular issue with Columbia’s decision to negotiate with protesters and shift to a hybrid learning model as demonstrations intensified. Lawyers argue this accommodation “is unfair,” exacerbating divisions by essentially sidelining Jewish and pro-Israel students who no longer feel safe attending in-person classes.

In addition to alleged physical attacks and verbal harassment, the anonymous plaintiff claims pro-Palestinian activists have directly incited violence against Jewish students and counter-protesters while on Columbia’s campus. The lawsuit aims to compel the university to uphold its policies regarding the safety and security of students.

Among other demands, the suit calls on Columbia to immediately resume full in-person instruction and compensate those forced into online studies due to fears for their well-being. The suit also seeks punitive damages against the university for its failure to maintain a secure environment.

“We understand this is a deeply divisive issue, but our primary concern is ensuring all students have safe access to the education they paid for, regardless of identity or viewpoint,” Edelson stated. “Columbia’s abrogation of its basic duties has been extremely disappointing.”

In a brief statement, a Columbia spokesperson said the university was aware of the litigation but cannot comment on pending legal matters. The spokesperson claimed that safety, open inquiry and tolerance for differing perspectives “have always been top priorities” for the institution.

The lawsuit comes amid heightened tensions America-wide over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with similar anti-Israel protests flaring at college campuses from coast to coast in recent weeks. However, the events at Columbia have proven particularly disruptive, culminating in the brief hostage situation when protesters barricaded themselves inside Hamilton Hall, a main academic building.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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