The Left Is Upset That Their Protesters Can't Ignore All the Rules All the Time

Yesterday more than 100 protesters were arrested on the campus of Columbia University by NYPD officers who'd been invited on campus by President Shafik. Today, voices on the left are reacting angrily to that spectacle. Columnist Michelle Goldberg, had her usual knee-jerk response, blaming everything on Republicans.


Columbia’s exceptionally poised president, Nemat Shafik, clearly has no intention of going down like the former heads of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, both driven from their jobs after disastrous appearances before a congressional committee investigating campus antisemitism.

Testifying before the same panel on Wednesday, she readily agreed with Republicans’ premise that pro-Palestinian activism at Columbia is shot through with anti-Jewish bigotry, and explained how, under her leadership, Columbia is cracking down. Fifteen students, she said, had been suspended, and six more were on disciplinary probation. The visiting scholar Mohamed Abdou, who expressed support for Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, “will never work at Columbia again,” she said, and several other members of the faculty are under investigation. If it had been up to her, she said, the stridently anti-Zionist professor Joseph Massad would never have gotten tenure.

Calling professor Massad "anti-Zionist" is being pretty generous. As Goldberg admits a few paragraphs later, his record seems to stretch the boundaries of that term.

As at many other schools, some at Columbia have celebrated terrorism; in an ugly Oct. 8 essay repeatedly cited at the hearings, Massad, the anti-Zionist professor, wrote of “jubilation and awe” occasioned by the “innovative Palestinian resistance” of Oct. 7. But just as the existence of Communists in America didn’t justify McCarthyism, the rhetorical grotesqueries of parts of the campus left don’t make it OK for Congress to demand that universities curtail denunciations of Israel while it wages a brutal war on Gaza.


I'm sorry but if you're cheering on the terror group who is murdering scores of Jewish civilians, you're not just anti-Zionist, you're anti-Semitic.

The rest of her complaints are also complete nonsense. There were 108 students arrested yesterday after they pitched tents in a public space on campus and refused to heed warnings that they were violating school rules and would face consequences if they refused to leave. Meanwhile, there were hundreds more student protesters surrounding the tent camp and protesting for the same cause. None of them were arrested. In fact, Goldberg's own paper reported that those protesters planned to keep their denunciations of Israel going all night.

 By Thursday night, the tents had disappeared. But scores of students took over a campus lawn. Planning to stay all night, they were in a rather upbeat mood, noshing on donated pizza and snacks. An impromptu dance party had even broken out.

“The police presence and the arrests do not deter us in any way,” said Layla Saliba, 24, a Palestinian-American student at the School of Social Work, at a news conference organized by Apartheid Divest, a coalition of student groups.

“If anything,” she added, “all of their repression towards us — it’s galvanized us. It’s moved us.”

No one was silenced. That's the inconvenient truth that is being overlooked. An unauthorized campus occupation of public space was cleared. One commenter from Columbia pointed out this was necessary for the school's upcoming graduation.


I am a Columbia insider and we have commencement in a couple of weeks in the exact spot where the tents are. For this reason alone (although personally I can think of many other reasons), the protesters cannot camp out there. For 25 years I have observed graduation at Columbia and it is always a gorgeous sea of blue, from the robes. But the protesters want to turn it red and black. They must go.

There's an even more outraged piece in the Guardian today titled "Columbia University is colluding with the far-right in its attack on students."

The police raid against Columbia students that followed the next day can be seen as an extension of the policy of appeasement and preemptive compliance with the anti-Palestinian, anti-student Republican right that Shafik adopted in her testimony. In its war on education and ostentatious displays of grievance against “woke” universities, the far right has made itself hostile to academic freedom, peaceful protest and vast swaths of progressive speech. In her willingness to unleash state violence against student protestors, Shafik proved herself their willing ally. It is worth stating plainly what happened at Columbia: the raid was nothing less than the product of collusion between a university administration and rightwing politicians to suppress politically disfavored speech.


Again, this is hyperbolic nonsense. Speech was not targeted in yesterday's arrests, behavior was. Those who were camping out on a lawn were violating school rules and refused to leave when asked. They got arrested. The hundreds of other students who weren't doing that did not get arrested. This isn't complicated.

This is no longer about what the protesters are saying -- either for the protesters or for the administration.  It's just about defying authority for its own sake.  The University has the right and the responsibility to give all its students equal access to its public spaces, prevent disruption, and place reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of protests.  Enough.

And of course, Jewish students also have a right not to be harassed on campus. Even yesterday there were people like this right outside the campus.

This commenter did an excellent job summing it up.

First, Columbia is not suppressing anti-Israel speech. It is imposing entirely permissible time, place and manner restrictions on protests to insure they not adversely impact student classroom learning.

Second, Columbia is subject to Title VI of the federal civil rights laws which prohibits the creation of hostile environments on campus. So a content judgment of what is criticism (even if wrong or misguided) and what is hateful rhetoric cannot be avoided.

Third, Columbia has every right to insist that students engage in civil, thoughtful discourse rather than tossing around academic jargon they barely understand to bully and intimidate. 

At a minimum, the students are obligated to abide by Columbia’s rules. The 100+ students arrested today deliberately flouted those rules and are now finally learning an important life lesson: actions have consequences.


After the BLM riots of 2020, the left seems to have gotten used to the idea that protesting is a green light to do literally anything you want, including shutting down streets, shouting at strangers eating dinner, vandalizing businesses and even setting things on fire. They expect their latest mob to be given the same latitude. What these commentators are really angry about is that a group of adults have told them no. The school is enforcing neutral limits on the time, place and manner of speech, just as if would if these were students protesting some other issue.

The bottom line is that campus radicals act as if they can shrug off the rules that apply equally to everyone, but that's not how it works. Frankly, it's pretty ironic that a group who would almost certainly try to deplatform a speaker they disagreed with are whining because they aren't allowed to turn the campus into a tent city. Meanwhile, 

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