Lawsuit accuses Columbia of singling out 2 pro-Palestinian groups by suspending them after protest

Mar 12, 2024, 11:10 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — Columbia University is being sued by the New York Civil Liberties Union over the school’s decision last fall to suspend two student groups that protested Israel’s conduct in the Gaza war.

The lawsuit announced Tuesday accuses the Ivy League school of violating its own rules by suspending the groups, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, a day after their Nov. 9 campus protest sponsored by more than 20 groups. The next day, the two groups were suspended for allegedly violating university policy and were given no opportunity to respond to the charges or contest them, the lawsuit says.

That protest came in the heated weeks after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks that sparked the war and Israel’s subsequent ground invasion of Gaza, when demonstrations were organized by both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel students at Columbia and other U.S. campuses. Students on both sides complained of harassment and bias incidents.

Columbia had said in a statement that the Nov. 9 demonstration “included threatening rhetoric and intimidation.” The two groups’ suspension, which is still in effect, bans them from holding on-campus events or getting school funding. The lawsuit filed by the NYCLU and Palestine Legal, an advocacy organization, seeks to nullify the suspensions “and related relief.”

“Universities should be havens for robust debate, discussion, and learning — not sites of censorship where administrators, donors, and politicians squash political discourse they don’t approve of,” NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman said in a news release.

Palestine Legal senior staff attorney Radhika Sainath said universities “must abide by their own rules and may not punish student groups speaking out for Palestinian rights in the moment when they are most essential -– even if donors and lobby groups complain.”

A Columbia spokesperson said university officials would decline to comment on pending litigation. The lawsuit says Columbia would lift the suspension if the two groups show sufficient commitment to following school rules and engaging with university officials.

The suit was filed in state court in Manhattan on Monday, the same day that a Republican-led Congressional committee announced a hearing on antisemitism at Columbia.

University President Minouche Shafik and the two co-chairs of Columbia’s Board of Trustees are expected to testify at the April 17 hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Columbia officials were asked to testify at the committee’s December hearing during which members grilled the presidents of Harvard, M.I.T. and the University of Pennsylvania over reports of antisemitic incidents at their campuses but cited a scheduling conflict.

Both Penn President Liz Magill and Harvard President Claudine Gay resigned following criticism of their testimony before the committee.

Columbia spokesperson Samantha Slater said the university “is committed to combating antisemitism and we welcome the opportunity to discuss our work to protect and support Jewish students and keep our community safe.”

United States News

Associated Press

2024 Election Latest: Harris has secured enough support to earn party’s nomination, AP survey finds

Vice President Kamala Harris had a busy 24 hours after being endorsed as the Democratic presidential candidate by President Joe Biden. She has secured enough delegates to earn the party’s nomination and raised more than $81 million, a record sum for the 2024 political cycle. Meanwhile, The Secret Service director testified before a congressional committee […]

19 minutes ago

Associated Press

2 killed when small plane crashes after takeoff from Long Island airport

RONKONKOMA, N.Y. (AP) — A small plane crashed shortly after takeoff on New York’s Long Island, killing both people who were on board, authorities said. The single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza A36 took off from MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma at about 6:15 p.m. Monday and crashed after the pilot tried to return to the runway, Suffolk County […]

33 minutes ago

Associated Press

Kamala Harris is preparing to lead Democrats in 2024. There are lessons from her 2020 bid

ATLANTA (AP) — Kamala Harris was greeted by a massive, cheering crowd during the first rally of her newly announced presidential campaign in 2019. Speaking on a late January day outside city hall in her hometown of Oakland, California, she framed her bid as part of something bigger than simply winning an election. “We are […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Unsold 2024 Escalade utility vehicles sit in a row outside a Cadillac dealership on June 2, ...

Associated Press

With US vehicle prices averaging near $50K, General Motors sees 2nd-quarter profits rise 15%

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. customers who bought a new General Motors vehicle last quarter paid an average of just under $49,900, a price that helped push the company’s net income 15% above a year ago. And GM Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson said he doesn’t see his company cutting prices very much, despite industry analysts’ […]

2 hours ago

FILE - In this July 27, 2021 file photo, Simone Biles, of the United States, watches gymnasts perfo...

Associated Press

Biles, Osaka and Phelps spoke up about mental health. Has anything changed for the Paris Olympics?

Lydia Jacoby was a breakout star in the pool for the United States at the last Summer Games, earning a gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke and a relay silver. Part of what comes to mind from those heady days in Tokyo? “People talking about post-Olympic depression,” she said. She was 17 at the time, […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Harris to visit battleground Wisconsin in first rally as Democrats coalesce around her for president

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris is making her first visit to a battleground state Tuesday after locking up enough support from Democratic delegates to win her party’s nomination to challenge former President Donald Trump, two days after President Joe Biden dropped his reelection bid. As the Democratic Party continues to coalesce around her, […]

3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.


Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

Lawsuit accuses Columbia of singling out 2 pro-Palestinian groups by suspending them after protest