·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Lawsuits & Litigation

Columbia Student Files Lawsuit Accusing University of Failing to Protect Jewish Students from Pro-Palestine Protesters

— May 1, 2024

In her complaint, the student claims that Columbia broadly failed to prevent a small set of “extremists” from using pro-Palestine protests as an opportunity to harass and intimidate Jewish students.

A Jewish student has filed a lawsuit against Columbia University, claiming that the Ivy League institution has failed to provide “a safe educational environment” for its students.

According to The Hill, the complaint was filed Monday on behalf of a second-year student, whose identity was not disclosed in court documents. In her complaint, the student said that ongoing pro-Palestine protests—culminating in the establishment of a so-called “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” on Columbia’s campus—has put Jewish students at risk of harassment and physical harm.

“The encampment has been the center of round-the-clock harassment of Jewish students, who have been punched, shoved, spat upon, blocked from attending classes and moving freely about campus, and targeted by pro-terrorist hate speech—both verbal and in written form on massive banners and signs—with statements such as: “Death to Jews”; “Long live Hamas”; “Globalize the Intifada,” the lawsuit alleges.

Aside from these safety concerns, attorneys for the student also charged that Columbia’s response to the protests—moving many courses online for the remainder of the semester—has disrupted both disrupted education for all of the university’s students, and isolated Jewish students from their peers.

A gavel. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Brian Turner. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“By implementing a hybrid learning approach, the university fails to address the underlying safety concerns while creating a stark divide in the educational experiences of Jewish and non-Jewish students,” the lawsuit alleges.

Attorneys for the student acknowledged that university protests have long been a cornerstone of American activism, even when they highlight issues that make many people uncomfortable.

“These debates often make people profoundly uncomfortable, and opinions are deeply divided,” the student’s attorneys wrote in the complaint. “However, this kind of discourse is a cornerstone of American society, where differing viewpoints can be discussed openly, even when protesters use inflammatory language like ‘F–k Israel’ or make derogatory remarks.”

But, this notwithstanding, the lawsuit suggests that a minority of protests have gone “beyond simply engaging in free speech.”

“[The] extreme element is not just expressing dissent,” the lawsuit claims. “They have and are continuing to commit acts of violence, they are intimidating and harassing Jewish students and faculty members, they are inciting demonstrators to engage in hate speech and also commit acts of violence, which has been taking place, and they have even called for terrorist attacks against the United States and the State of Israel.”

“All of these acts,” lawyers wrote, “have been calculated to disrupt the normal functioning of Columbia and to overshadow the voices of those engaging in constitutionally protected speech and protests.”

As an example, the lawsuit cites an incident that occurred on April 18, when a group of more committed protesters established a “Liberated Zone” on Columbia’s campus. Dozens of tents were erected, after which Jewish students were purportedly prevented from walking through the area.

Before Tuesday, Columbia University administrators sent mixed signals as to how it would address the encampment, first ordering that students disperse or risk arrest, then saying that it would “negotiate” with protest leaders for a more peaceful resolution.

However, earlier this evening, the university requested that the New York Police Department intervene. Preliminary reports claim that officers have already made dozens of arrests, and that the department has succeeded in clearing demonstrators from an on-campus building.


Columbia student’s lawyer ‘There are straight-out calls for the genocide of Jews’

Columbia University student files class action lawsuit against school to protect Jews on campus

Jewish and pro-Palestinian students at Columbia University accuse school officials of discrimination in competing complaints

Jewish student sues Columbia for failing to provide a safe environment amid campus protests

Join the conversation!