Thousands of Columbia University alumni sign letter vowing to withhold financial support over war in Gaza
05/16/2024 // Cassie B. // Views

Columbia University alumni have issued a letter threatening to withhold financial support over the Gaza war if the Ivy League school does not meet their list of 13 demands.

The letter, which has been signed by more than 1,800 alumni so far, demands that the university divest from "all companies and institutions that fund or profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and occupation in Palestine."

Those who sign the statement are listed anonymously and are prompted to fill out a form with their degree year and affiliation, along with an estimate of the amount of money they’ve given to the school so far in terms of donations, tuition and fees, along with their anticipated potential lost future contributions.

The letter notes that the university has an undisclosed number of investments with a variety of entities that are either funding the Israeli military occupation or profiting from it.

“Students—who paid $1.53 billion in tuition last year alone—are rightfully demanding that they have a say in where that money goes. We are in full support of Columbia University divesting from Israel, and we are beyond appalled at how far University administration has gone to protect their investments at the expense of student safety and intellectual inquiry,” the letter notes.

It is not just about finances, however; those who sign the letter are vowing to hit the school from all angles, asserting: “As a unified coalition, we each pledge to withhold all financial, programmatic, and academic support of Columbia University until the demands in this letter are met.”

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It also calls on the university to drop all charges against student activists who have been demonstrating against the genocide in Gaza and demands that the university remove president Nemat Minouche Shafik from her role, taking aim at her decision to call in the NYPD Strategic Response Group to “violently storm campus.”

They identified a number of military tactics that the group subjected students to, including the use of gunfire, flashbangs and stun grenades, in addition to forcibly removing hijabs from Muslim students in the presence of men, which violates their religious rights, and denying students access to medication, water and food when they were taken into police custody. It also demands that the university cover the healthcare costs for students who were “brutalized by the NYPD on April 30th, 2024.”

In a section entitled “For the Safety, Integrity, and Well-being of Columbia and Surrounding Community” they called on the university to hold administrators, faculty members and affiliates who have assaulted and harassed students accountable and to sever all academic ties with the entire country of Israel, including their GS dual degree program in conjunction with Tel Aviv University and their global center in Tel Aviv.

According to a financial contribution ticker on the website where the letter is published, $111 million in financial contributions are at risk.

Alumni reject administration’s use of false antisemitism claims to justify actions against protesters

Crucially, the letter notes that the university has been using claims of “combating antisemitism” to “justify their brutal assault on student protesters.” It says that the signatories of the letter who are Jewish take issue with the narrative that criticizing Israel is inherently antisemitic and points out that many Jewish people support the idea of Palestinian liberation.

Baseless claims of antisemitism have been increasingly used to silence critics of Israel, falsely equating any calls for an end to genocide in Gaza with a hatred toward Jewish people.

“Weaponizing claims about antisemitism to silence student speech is based on faulty logic, harms Jewish students, and distracts from true antisemitism, including the attempts by a craven American right to tokenize, exploit, and appropriate Jewish trauma and resilience,” the letter states.

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