Columbia University Shifts Classes Online Amid Protests

Columbia University Shifts Classes Online Amid Protests
Columbia University Shifts Classes Online Amid Protests

The leader of Columbia University ordered classes to be held online after a weekend of campus unrest over the Israel-Hamas war, and as protests spread to other US colleges.

A large group of demonstrators has established a "Gaza Solidarity Encampment" on lawns at the prestigious New York institution, with some Jewish students reporting intimidation and anti-Semitism amid the days-long protest.

In an open letter to the university community, Colombia's president, Nemat Shafik, said there needed to be "a reset."

"Over the past days, there have been too many examples of intimidating and harassing behavior on our campus," she said.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators began their protest last week, calling for the university to divest from companies that have ties to Israel.

More than 100 of them were arrested after university authorities called the police onto the private campus, a move that seemingly escalated tensions and sparked a greater turnout on the weekend.

Those protests had spread to MIT and the University of Michigan, with at least 47 people arrested in a demonstration at Yale University.

Universities have become the focus of intense cultural debate in the United States since the October 7 Hamas attack and Israel's overwhelming military response to it.

US President Joe Biden condemned any anti-Semitism on college campuses, as pro-Palestinian protesters at Columbia University spent their fifth day demanding the school sever financial ties with key US ally Israel.

Students camped out on university grounds are calling for the prestigious New York school, which has an exchange program with Tel Aviv University, to boycott all activities associated with Israel in light of the country's war with Hamas militants and the ensuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Tensions were particularly high, when 108 protesters were arrested after university president Nemat Shafik requested police intervention to disperse the crowd, who she said had violated campus security regulations.