Editorial | What are they teaching at NYC college campuses where antisemitism thrives?

People protest antisemitism at Cooper Union
Students, faculty, parents, and police are at odds over an alleged antisemitic incident that took place inside Cooper Union College on Oct. 26.
Photo by Dean Moses

Where did all this antisemitism come from on the campuses of some of America’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning?

We’re left to ask this question amid the ongoing surge in protests following the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks on Israel by Hamas, and the myriad reports of college demonstrators or professors harassing Jewish students and/or using antisemitic, anti-Israel rhetoric while voicing their purported support for Palestine.

And we ask what the deans and boards of these universities and colleges are doing to quell the hatred being voiced on their campuses. 

Make no mistake: It is one thing to voice support for Palestinians who are caught in the crossfire of the conflict, who are being used by Hamas as human shields while they perpetrate attacks on Israel. 

But it is quite another for demonstrators at NYU who say they want “to take down the current system that supports Israel” or to hold signs that read, “WE CAN’T WAIT FOR THE CALIPHATE.”

It is quite another for a Columbia University professor to publicly refer to the abhorrent murder of more than 1,500 people in Israel on Oct. 7 as a “resistance offensive.” 

And it is quite another for pro-Palestine protesters at Cooper Union to intimidate Jewish students by chanting loudly and banging doors while forcing their classmates to barricade themselves inside a library.

These are overt acts of antisemitism and hatred, not a justified protest of an ongoing conflict. This is not merely about promoting pacifism or calling for a ceasefire in a time of war; this is an extension of an ongoing attack on Israel and the Jewish people as a whole.

It is intolerable, and it must stop. Now.

Colleges and universities like NYU, Columbia and Cooper Union are supposed to be some of New York City’s greatest assets. In the last month, however, the actions of some of their students and professors have brought great shame and outrage. 

We don’t know how long such virulent hatred has incubated, or how it was allowed to fester on these campuses for so long. Now it is up to the boards, presidents and deans of these institutions to combat the outbreak. 

They have an obligation to speak out now against the hatred, and root out its sources. Doing so does not limit free speech or learning; rather, it underscores the virtues of justice, tolerance and freedom upon which these great institutions were founded — while casting aside the evils of bigotry, ignorance and suppression. 

We encourage our readers to contact these NYC college presidents and urge them to do something to combat the spread of antisemitism:

NYU President Linda Mills: 212-998-2345

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik: 212-854-9970

Cooper Union President Laura Sparks: 212-353-4240