Jun 5, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Columbia University settles lawsuit with Jewish student over unsafe campus

A photo of a building at Columbia University with commencement chairs set up outside of it.

Seats for commencement at Columbia University set up in early May 2024. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Columbia University agreed to increase safety measures in a Tuesday lawsuit settlement with a Jewish student who felt threatened and their education disrupted by campus protests earlier this year.

Why it matters: The settlement is one of the first legal agreements the university has made as related to campus protests as it faces investigation over alleged antisemitic and anti-Palestinian discrimination.

  • "We are pleased we've been able to come to a resolution and remain committed to our number one priority: the safety of our campus so that all of our students can successfully pursue their education and meet their academic goals," a Columbia University spokesperson said.

What's next: One of the settlement terms is the appointment of a "safe passage liaison" who will serve as the contact for students with protest-related safety concerns.

  • This person will also coordinate the response to student requests for escorts through at least December 2024.
  • Columbia's chief operating officer will have the authority to order alternative entrance and exit points from the campus for students receiving security escorts.
  • In the settlement, the university committed to establishing a process for students to complete key assignments or exams if they were unable to because of demonstration activity.

Context: The class action lawsuit was brought forth by a Jewish student "on behalf of all Columbia students who switched to online learning" in mid-April.

  • The litigation, which was on the premise that Columbia "breached its contractual obligations by failing to provide a safe environment for its students," considered complaints received by Columbia about Jewish students feeling threatened.

Zoom out: A Pro-Palestinian encampment at Columbia University followed the congressional testimony of university president Minouche Shafik regarding campus antisemitism.

  • Similar encampments and protests spread to universities across the country, leading to the arrests of demonstrators at Columbia and beyond.

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