November 13, 2023

We, the undersigned alumni, demand that Columbia University reverse the suspension of the campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. The University’s decision to suspend these student groups is not simply a matter of censorship or the repression of freedom of speech. Columbia is punishing students for protesting against ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Through its actions, Columbia University has institutionalized anti-Palestinian racism. As alumni, we will withhold our donations to the University until the following demands are met:

The unfolding Israeli bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza has already taken more than 11,000 lives, nearly half of them children, while escalating settler and military violence in the West Bank has killed 185 Palestinians in the course of a month. Israeli airstrikes have targeted Gaza’s refugee camps, residential homes, colleges, mosques, churches, evacuation caravans, and hospitals, in flagrant contravention of international law. Over 1.5 million Palestinians have been displaced. Israel has tightened its suffocating 16-year blockade on Gaza to prevent food, fuel, clean water, and humanitarian aid from reaching more than two million people, who now face death by starvation, dehydration, and disease. Israeli officials at the highest level of government have made their genocidal intentions clear, as noted by human rights officials, legal experts, and genocide scholars. The unfolding genocide in Gaza represents the most brutal escalation in Israel’s hundred-year war on Palestinian life, land, and dignity—perpetrated through a system of colonization, military occupation, and apartheid.

It is in this context that Columbia University, on November 10, suspended the campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace for alleged violations of university events policy. While the University has presented its decision as bureaucratic in nature, we recognize that selective enforcement of procedure is being weaponized to suppress political dissent. The suspension of the two groups comes on the heels of administrators threatening to sanction students at the School of Social Work for staging a sit-in for Gaza, as well as the abrupt cancellation of an SJP event co-sponsored by the Barnard Center for Research on Women, on the grounds of a policy that had previously never been applied. The University’s pattern of harassing, threatening, and disciplining students for mobilizing against a genocide is unconscionable.

The suspension of Columbia/Barnard SJP and JVP is taking place in the context of a nation-wide surge in repression against solidarity with Palestine. The Florida university system and Brandeis University have both moved to ban their respective SJPs, in a clear-cut example of the Palestine exception to free speech. These universities, in the face of a growing student movement demanding an end to institutional complicity with Israel’s war machine, are suspending their own purported principles of critical inquiry, academic freedom, and political speech protections. Columbia’s decision will embolden the current climate of anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic hostility, endangering Palestinians and encouraging further suppression of the movement for Palestinian liberation.

Columbia University has a responsibility to protect its students, faculty, and staff, as people of conscience across the world rise up to challenge Israel’s impunity and defend the Palestinian right to life. The university must immediately reverse the suspension of SJP and JVP, and stop the targeted harassment of Palestinian, Arab, and Jewish university affiliates. The University further has a duty to reckon with its own institutional and financial complicity with Israeli state violence, and must honor the democratic will of the Columbia College and Barnard College student bodies that have twice voted to divest from Israel’s apartheid regime. Initiatives such as the Tel Aviv Global Center and Tel Aviv University dual degree program undermine Columbia’s academic integrity and must be discontinued.

Columbia University must respond with moral clarity and principle in the face of genocide. We pledge to withhold all donations until these demands are met.