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House Speaker Urges Columbia Board To Dismiss President Following Graduation Cancellation

 May 7, 2024

House Speaker Mike Johnson has called for the removal of Columbia University President Minouche Shafik following the cancellation of the university's main graduation ceremony.

The controversy stems from a protest that disrupted Columbia's planned commencement, sparking a national debate on university leadership and campus safety, as the Daily Wire reports.

Johnson's criticism highlights a growing concern over perceived failures in university leadership to manage campus events effectively. The commencement was slated for May 15 but was preempted by pro-Palestinian protests that, according to Johnson, spiraled out of control.

Speaker's Visit Marks Tension Point

Following the announcement of the cancellation, Speaker Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, visited the campus. He met with President Shafik, pressing her on the need to uphold campus order and protect academic traditions.

Johnson's stern message to Shafik was clear: resign if she could not guarantee campus security and order amidst the escalating tensions. His visit underscores the federal attention the incident has garnered, reflecting broader concerns about campus environments nationwide.

University Board Stands by Shafik

In response to the speaker's call, the Columbia University Board of Trustees has publicly supported President Shafik. They praised her balanced approach to handling the protests and her firm stance against any form of hatred or discrimination.

The university's board's statement highlighted Shafik's commitment to managing the diverse voices on Columbia's vibrant campus while maintaining a strong stance against any forms of harassment and discrimination.

Breakdown of Negotiations Leads to Alternative Plans

Attempts by Shafik to negotiate with the student organizers of the protest ultimately failed. The university's administration decided not to divest from Israel, which was a key demand of the protesters.

This decision led to a further breakdown in relations, prompting the university to request assistance from the New York Police Department to secure the campus and ensure safety.

School-Level Ceremonies to Replace Main Event

As a consequence of the unrest and the breakdown of negotiations, Columbia University opted to cancel its main graduation event. Instead, individual school-level ceremonies will take place, allowing the university to maintain some semblance of recognition for its graduates.

This move was based on feedback from deans and colleagues, aiming to preserve the celebratory spirit of graduation amid challenging circumstances.

Johnson's Strong Criticism of Columbia's Leadership

Johnson articulated his dismay with Columbia's leadership during his visit, criticizing the university's administration for their inability to control the campus atmosphere. He accused them of letting "outside agitators and terrorist-sympathizing students and faculty" influence university policies and disrupt the campus environment.

"Shafik and Columbia University administrators have displayed a shocking unwillingness to control their campus. They’ve allowed outside agitators and terrorist-sympathizing students and faculty to rewrite campus rules and spew vile, anti-Jewish aggression. Now, thousands of students who’ve worked hard to achieve their degrees will not get the recognition they deserve," Johnson stated.

Board of Trustees Continues to Support Shafik

The board continues to stand behind Shafik, working closely with her to navigate the crisis and strengthen the community bonds that have been tested by these events. They remain committed to her vision of thoughtful conflict resolution and inclusivity.

"During the search process for this role, President Shafik told us that she would always take a thoughtful approach to resolving conflict, balancing the disparate voices that make up a vibrant campus like Columbia’s, while taking a firm stance against hatred, harassment and discrimination. That’s exactly what she’s doing now," the governing board expressed in a statement.

Conclusion: A University at a Crossroads

In conclusion, Columbia University faces a pivotal moment in its history.

The decisions made in the coming weeks will not only affect the university's leadership but also its position as a respected academic institution capable of managing internal conflicts and external pressures.

Speaker Johnson's call for leadership change underscores the importance of strong moral guidance in educational institutions during turbulent times.