Updated Apr 24, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Columbia University becomes a congressional pilgrimage

House Speaker Mike Johnson, wearing a blue suit, white shirt and red tie, speaking to reporter in front of a statue at the Capitol.

House Speaker Mike Johnson. Photo: Nathan Posner/Anadolu via Getty Images.

Chaotic protests at Columbia University are spurring visits to the college from at least 10 members of Congress this week from states as far flung as North Carolina, Florida and Louisiana.

Why it matters: It's a sign of how salient the issue of college antisemitism has become within Congress since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war and subsequent pro-Palestinian protests.

  • The visits come as the House is on a one-week recess.

Driving the news: House Speaker Mike Johnson's (R-La.) office announced Tuesday that the speaker will meet with Jewish students at the New York City-based college on Wednesday afternoon.

  • Johnson will hold a press conference on "the troubling rise of virulent antisemitism on America's college campuses," the advisory said.
  • Johnson will be joined by Reps. Anthony D'Esposito (R-N.Y.), Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) and Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chairwoman of the House Education and Workforce Committee.

The latest: Columbia announced Tuesday it will make attending all classes in-person optional for the rest of the semester as pro-Palestinian protests entered their seventh day.

  • Demonstrators have taken over a significant portion of the campus with an encampment in protest of the ongoing war in Gaza.
  • Columbia President Minouche Shafik, who testified to a House committee last week about campus antisemitism, has faced backlash from Congress and pressure to resign from many Republican lawmakers.

The backdrop: Johnson's visit comes after at least three congressional delegations visited the campus on Monday.

  • Jewish Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) and Kathy Manning (D-N.C.) toured the campus and held a press conference outside the college's center for Jewish life.
  • Just down the block, Reps. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) and Anthony D'Esposito (R-N.Y.) held a competing press conference at which they called for Shafik to resign immediately.
  • Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) said in social media post that he also visited Columbia on Monday to "show my support for the Jewish students who have faced harassment, intimidation and vicious antisemitic attacks."

Go deeper: America's campuses reach boiling point

Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional details. It was also corrected to note that Columbia is offering hybrid classes for the rest of the semester. It's not conducting all classes virtually.

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