Is the Gaza war tearing US university campuses apart?

Protests at Columbia University, other institutions, pit free speech against student safety

Photo montage of Columbia University president Minouche Shafik, campus grounds and pro-Palestine protests
Protests at Columbia, Yale and elsewhere "are getting uglier"
(Image credit: Illustration by Stephen Kelly / Getty Images)

Campus unrest over the war in Gaza "has reached a fever pitch in the final weeks of classes," said The New York Times, with confrontations between authorities and pro-Palestinian protesters at Columbia University, Yale University, New York University and others across the United States. The heart of the conflict: Administrators are "struggling to balance students' free speech rights and the need to protect Jewish students" from threats to their safety.

The crisis is particularly acute at Columbia, where a rabbi linked to the school "urged Jewish students to stay home" to avoid "tense confrontations" with protesters, CNN said. (In fact, everybody is staying home: The university soon announced it was shifting to remote classes for the final weeks of the spring semester.) The White House even weighed in, condemning "blatantly antisemitic" rhetoric after videos appeared to show some Columbia protesters expressing support for Hamas' deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

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Joel Mathis, The Week US

Joel Mathis is a freelance writer who has spent nine years as a syndicated columnist, co-writing the RedBlueAmerica column as the liberal half of a point-counterpoint duo. His work also regularly appears in National Geographic, The Kansas City Star and Heatmap News. His awards include best online commentary at the Online News Association and (twice) at the City and Regional Magazine Association.