Columbia University settles with Jewish student who sued over hostile environment on campus

Jun 4, 2024, 3:27 PM

Pro-Palestine Encampment at Columbia University in New York City.
Mandatory Credit:	Jimin Kim/SOPA ...

Pro-Palestine Encampment at Columbia University in New York City. Mandatory Credit: Jimin Kim/SOPA Images/Shutterstock via CNN Newsource

New York (CNN) — Columbia University has settled with a Jewish student who sued in late April, claiming the Ivy League university failed to provide a safe environment.

It’s one of the first such settlements reached as the university faces lawsuits and investigations from Jewish, Palestinian, Arab and pro-Palestinian students for allegedly failing to protect them after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel heightened tensions on US college campuses.

In late April, a lawsuit from the anonymous student said that their education had been disrupted by a hostile environment on campus, when pro-Palestinian protesters put up encampments on Columbia’s lawn protesting Israel’s war in Gaza and also occupied Hamilton Hall, a building on campus.

As part of the settlement, Columbia said it is providing 24/7 walking escorts and safe entrances to campus. The settlement also said the school agreed to provide accommodations “for students who were displaced from campus and couldn’t finish exams or other important assignments” after Columbia announced a hybrid learning model in late April.

Columbia also created a “Safe Passage Liaison,” who will manage and coordinate the safe passage escorts.

“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 university spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Columbia president Minouche Shafik acknowledged in a statement in April that many Jewish students and other students have “found the atmosphere intolerable in recent weeks.”

“Many have left campus, and that is a tragedy. To those students and their families, I want to say to you clearly: You are a valued part of the Columbia community,” Shafik said in that statement. “This is your campus too. We are committed to making Columbia safe for everyone, and to ensuring that you feel welcome and valued.”

In late April, Palestine Legal also filed a civil rights complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, requesting an investigation into Columbia’s treatment of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian students.

The complaint alleged that for months, these students had “been the target of extreme anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, and Islamophobic harassment, including receiving multiple death threats, being harassed for wearing keffiyehs or hijab, doxed, stereotyped, being treated differently by high-ranking administrators.”

Columbia has three active Title VI investigations with the OCR since the encampment went up in April. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act says universities and K-12 schools have a responsibility to provide all students with an environment free from discrimination.

CNN’s Matt Egan contributed to this report.

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Columbia University settles with Jewish student who sued over hostile environment on campus