Columbia lets students attend class online amid growing campus protests over Israel’s war in Gaza


NEW YORK (AP) — Columbia University’s main campus will switch to hybrid learning — giving students the option to attend classes online rather than in person — for the rest of the semester amid protests over Israel’s war with Hamas that have roiled colleges across the U.S.

Some students have said they are afraid to set foot on Columbia’s campus with tensions running high.

“Safety is our highest priority as we strive to support our students’ learning and all the required academic operations,” the Ivy League university’s provost, Angela V. Olinto, and chief operating officer, Cas Holloway, said in a statement late Monday.

The move comes as schools across the country, many of which have about two weeks of classes left before the semester ends, grapple with how to handle similar protests. Since the war began, colleges and universities have struggled to balance safety with free speech rights. Many long tolerated protests but are now doling out more heavy-handed discipline.

Tensions have risen since more than 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators who had camped out on Columbia’s upper Manhattan campus were arrested last week.

The arrests sparked renewed anti-war protests and encampments, including at New York University a few miles south of Columbia, where an encampment swelled to hundreds of protesters and police made arrests Monday night.

A New York Police Department spokesperson said 133 protesters were taken into custody at NYU, and that all of them had been released with summonses to appear in court on disorderly conduct charges. University spokesperson John Beckman said NYU was carrying on with classes Tuesday.

Across the country, California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, announced that its campus will be closed through Wednesday after demonstrators occupied a building Monday night. Classes were to be conducted remotely, the school said on its website.

At the University of Michigan, protesters had set up more than 30 tents on the central part of the Ann Arbor campus called the Diag.

The protests have pitted students against one another, with pro-Palestinian students demanding that their schools condemn Israel’s assault on Gaza and divest from companies that sell weapons to Israel. Some Jewish students, meanwhile, say much of the criticism of Israel has veered into antisemitism.

As Donald Trump walked into a Manhattan courtroom Tuesday morning to attend his historic hush money trial, he spoke briefly to reporters and focused on the turmoil at college campuses, blaming President Joe Biden.

“What’s going on is a disgrace to our country and it’s all Biden’s fault,” Trump said.

A day earlier, when asked whether he condemned “the antisemitic protests,” Biden said he did.

“I also condemn those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians,” Biden said after an Earth Day event outside Washington.

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik said in a message to the school community Monday that she was “deeply saddened” by what was happening on the campus.

“To deescalate the rancor and give us all a chance to consider next steps, I am announcing that all classes will be held virtually on Monday,” Shafik wrote, noting that students who didn’t live on campus should stay away.

Robert Kraft, who owns the New England Patriots football team and funded the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life across from Columbia’s campus, said he was suspending donations to the university.

“I am no longer confident that Columbia can protect its students and staff and I am not comfortable supporting the university until corrective action is taken,” he said in a statement.

Campus protests began after Hamas’ deadly attack on southern Israel, when militants killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took roughly 250 hostages. During the ensuing war, Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the local health ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and noncombatants but says at least two-thirds of the dead are children and women.


Perry reported from Meredith, New Hampshire. Associated Press writers Will Weissert in Triangle, Virginia, Larry Lage in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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