Columbia University to offer hybrid learning for rest of semester amid pro-Palestinian protests

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Tuesday, April 23, 2024
Columbia University goes hybrid; more than 150 arrested at NYU protest
Raegan Medgie reports the details from Morningside Heights.

MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, Manhattan (WABC) -- Columbia University made the decision Monday night to offer students hybrid learning for their classes for the remainder of the school year amid intense pro-Palestinian protests on the school's campus.

The university said in a statement that "All faculty whose classrooms are located on the main Morningside campus and equipped with hybrid capabilities should enable them to provide virtual learning options" for the remainder of the semester.

In addition, the school said, "Faculty in other classrooms or teaching spaces that do not have capabilities for offering hybrid options should hold classes remotely if there are student requests for virtual participation."

The last day of classes is next Monday, and final exams will be held from Friday, May 3 to Friday, May 10.

Columbia University classes were already being held remotely on Monday as pro-Palestinian protests continued.

Monday evening also marked the first night of Passover. NYPD officials say the Jewish holiday may catalyze extremist groups or individuals to commit acts of violence or intimidation.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kaz Daughtry and Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Tarik Sheppard talk about the protests on Eyewitness News Mornings @ 10

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kaz Daughtry and Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Tarik Sheppard talk about the protests.

Just before 1:30 a.m. Monday, Columbia University President Dr. Minouche Shafik released a statement to the school's community:

"These tensions have been explored and amplified by individuals who are not affiliated with Columbia who have come to campus to pursue their own agendas. We need a reset."

Robert Kraft, who owns the New England Patriots football team and funded the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life across from Columbia's campus, said he was suspending donations to the university.

"I am no longer confident that Columbia can protect its students and staff and I am not comfortable supporting the university until corrective action is taken," he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, a Columbia sophomore negotiating with the university on behalf of the demonstrators on campus said on Monday that it was the university that threw gasoline on a raging fire.

"I would say the university lead us to this situation by bringing the police in," the negotiator said. "The university fed the fraction between students by issuing multiple statements siding with one side, and not acknowledging the other. We acknowledge the rise of antisemitism and Islamophobia and anti-Palestinianism."

He said that they are also protesting the fact that students were suspended last week for conduct violations.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said she met with the Columbia University president and NYPD officials earlier this morning to discuss public safety initiatives as student protests and unrest continue play out on campus.

"Students are scared, they're afraid to walk on campus, they don't deserve that," Hochul said in a video message posted to social media.

"I'm calling on everyone, people need to find their humanity. Have the conversations. Talk to each other, understand the different points of view. Because that's what college students should be doing," Hochul added.

The university announced plans to "more than double" campus public safety instead of using the NYPD. It will also increase security patrols and improve ID checks.

At a news conference Monday morning, NYPD officials made clear that the university is private property and that the department has always deferred to the university's wishes regarding its own security.

The NYPD only steps in when asked by Columbia, police officials said, and that has been the case since the protests began last week.

"When it comes to the university's internal rules, rules about how and when students can gather, those are university rules. We are not the enforcers of those rules," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner Michael Gerber. "When we went in on Thursday that was because the university contacted us and said these students had broken various rules."

Eyewitness News did see plenty of angry confrontations on Monday.

There was a heated confrontation in the morning after a pro-Israeli assistant professor, Shai Davidai, was denied access to the main quad.

And emotions were running high through the day, with racial slurs being hurled freely on Day Five of the ongoing protests.

Protests were also growing at other campuses in the Tri-State area.

At NYU in Greenwich Village, students set up tents at Gould Plaza and marched to show their support for the demonstration at Columbia.

Jim Dolan is live at Gould Plaza as protests continue at NYU.

On Sunday, students not far away at the New School, staged a demonstration, in a show of solidarity.

Officials at the New School have reportedly agreed to meet with protesters to discuss their issues.

And at Yale University in Connecticut at least 45 people as pro-Palestine demonstrators gathered over the weekend to demand the university give up its investment in military weapons manufacturers.

On Monday, Yale police demanded they leave the campus and those who refused were charged with criminal trespass.

University officials say any students who were arrested will face disciplinary action.

Local colleges aside from Columbia University are becoming hotspots for these protests.

On Sunday, pro-Palestinian protesters returned to Columbia's campus for a fifth day to support students who are sitting in with sleeping bags and tents on the lawn.

Protesters say they want the Ivy League school to divest its stocks, funds, and endowment from companies that they say profit from Israel's violations of international law and Palestinian rights.

"The level of pain, anger and deep love for our people is what drives me, what brings me," Basheer Al Araj of the Palestinian Youth Movement said.

New video showed tense moments between the NYPD and pro-Palestinian protesters as demonstrations continued outside of Columbia University over the weekend.

Mayor Eric Adams released a statement Sunday saying in part that he is "horrified and disgusted with the antisemitism being spewed at and around the Columbia University campus - like the example of a young woman holding a sign with an arrow pointing to Jewish students stating 'Al-Qasam's Next Targets,' or another where a woman is literally yelling 'We are Hamas,' or another where groups of students are chanting 'We don't want no Zionists here' - and I condemn this hate speech in the strongest of terms."

Police say they arrested three people on Saturday, far fewer than the 113 people taken into custody earlier in the week.

On Saturday night, a clash with the NYPD led to several arrests on top of more than a hundred arrests on Thursday alone, including students for not tearing down their tents on campus.

Others in the community are shouting support for Israel.

"The whole thing breaks my heart and especially, I think the worst part, the most horrible thing is what's going on with these hostages that it's 198 days today," said retired Columbia University Administrator Reva Feinstein.

Shafik says she does not think it is right for the protests to "disrupt important milestones like graduation to advance their point of view." The school's president hopes her community can come together to find solutions and compromise.

Jewish leaders say the university needs to stop the harassment of Jewish students.

"If you are calling Jewish students, Zionists, who are here trying to study, and have nothing to do with the foreign policy of Israel or the war that's going on in the Middle East. That is antisemitism," said Rep. Dan Goldman.

And actor Michael Rappaport threw his support behind Jewish students.

"Do not be afraid of being Jewish especially in New York City," Rappaport said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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