University chiefs face faculty backlash over Gaza protests

Students at Columbia University have sparked a worldwide protest movement [Getty]

Presidents of prominent US universities are facing retribution for weeks-long student encampments protesting Israel’s war in Gaza.

As student protests over Israel’s war on Gaza, which has killed more than 35,000, continue in the last days of the academic year, many faculty members are formally raising concerns about senior administrations’ crackdowns on largely peaceful student protesters, which arguably only intensified and inflamed the movements.

At Columbia University in New York, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences passed a vote of “no confidence” on Thursday for Nemat Minouche Shafik in response to her congressional testimony last month and for her crackdown on students who had set up an encampment on campus.

The resolution, which raised concerns about academic freedom and governance, was introduced by Columbia’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

“We have lost confidence in the capacity of the senior administration, as personified by the president, to make the right decisions for Columbia based on the series of mistakes and miscalculations and overreaches and violations of norms of governance and of standards of administrative behavior over the past academic year,” the president of the association, David Lurie, told the student newspaper the Spectator.

This follows last week’s vote by the faculty senate at the University of Southern California censuring the university’s president Carol Folt, and provost, Andrew Guzman following the cancellation of the speech by the valedictorian, a Muslim student who had not yet written her speech.

The resolution noted “widespread dissatisfaction and concern among the faculty about administrative actions and decisions” of recent events at the institution, which included a heavy-handed response to student protesters.

As the academic year comes to a close at universities across the US, university heads, particularly those that engaged in heavy-handed crackdowns, are likely to see similar measures. 

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