Columbia Lets Students Attend Class Online amid Growing Campus Protests over Israel’s War in Gaza

FILE - Police in Riot gear stand guard as demonstrators chant slogans outside the Columbia University campus, Thursday, April 18, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
FILE - Police in Riot gear stand guard as demonstrators chant slogans outside the Columbia University campus, Thursday, April 18, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
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Columbia Lets Students Attend Class Online amid Growing Campus Protests over Israel’s War in Gaza

FILE - Police in Riot gear stand guard as demonstrators chant slogans outside the Columbia University campus, Thursday, April 18, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
FILE - Police in Riot gear stand guard as demonstrators chant slogans outside the Columbia University campus, Thursday, April 18, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Columbia University's main campus will switch to hybrid learning — giving students the option to attend classes online rather than in person — for the rest of the semester amid protests over Israel's war with Hamas that have roiled colleges across the US.

Some students have said they are afraid to set foot on Columbia’s campus with tensions running high.

“Safety is our highest priority as we strive to support our students’ learning and all the required academic operations,” the Ivy League university's provost, Angela V. Olinto, and chief operating officer, Cas Holloway, said in a statement late Monday.

The move comes as schools across the country, many of which have about two weeks of classes left before the semester ends, grapple with how to handle similar protests. Since the war began, colleges and universities have struggled to balance safety with free speech rights. Many long tolerated protests but are now doling out more heavy-handed discipline.

Tensions have risen since more than 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators who had camped out on Columbia’s upper Manhattan campus were arrested last week.

The arrests sparked renewed anti-war protests and encampments, including at New York University a few miles south of Columbia, where an encampment swelled to hundreds of protesters and police made arrests Monday night.

A New York Police Department spokesperson said 133 protesters were taken into custody at NYU, and that all of them had been released with summonses to appear in court on disorderly conduct charges. University spokesperson John Beckman said NYU was carrying on with classes Tuesday.

Across the country, California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, announced that its campus will be closed through Wednesday after demonstrators occupied a building Monday night. Classes were to be conducted remotely, the school said on its website.

At the University of Michigan, protesters had set up more than 30 tents on the central part of the Ann Arbor campus called the Diag.

The protests have pitted students against one another, with pro-Palestinian students demanding that their schools condemn Israel’s assault on Gaza and divest from companies that sell weapons to Israel. Some Jewish students, meanwhile, say much of the criticism of Israel has veered into antisemitism.

As Donald Trump walked into a Manhattan courtroom Tuesday morning to attend his historic hush money trial, he spoke briefly to reporters and focused on the turmoil at college campuses, blaming President Joe Biden.

“What’s going on is a disgrace to our country and it’s all Biden’s fault,” Trump said.

A day earlier, when asked whether he condemned “the antisemitic protests," Biden said he did.

“I also condemn those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians,” Biden said after an Earth Day event outside Washington.

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik said in a message to the school community Monday that she was “deeply saddened” by what was happening on the campus.

“To deescalate the rancor and give us all a chance to consider next steps, I am announcing that all classes will be held virtually on Monday,” Shafik wrote, noting that students who didn't live on campus should stay away.

Robert Kraft, who owns the New England Patriots football team and funded the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life across from Columbia’s campus, said he was suspending donations to the university.

“I am no longer confident that Columbia can protect its students and staff and I am not comfortable supporting the university until corrective action is taken,” he said in a statement.

Campus protests began after Hamas’ deadly attack on southern Israel, when fighters killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took roughly 250 hostages. During the ensuing war, Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the local health ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and noncombatants but says at least two-thirds of the dead are children and women.



Taiwan Says China Drills More about Intimidation, Propaganda than Starting War

A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
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Taiwan Says China Drills More about Intimidation, Propaganda than Starting War

A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)
A man stands on a jetty behind a tourist boat and Chinese flags on Pingtan island, opposite Taiwan in China’s southeast Fujian province on Sunday. (AFP)

China's military drills last week were more about propaganda and intimidation than starting a war, but Chinese forces did show how they could react quickly, Taiwan's top security official said on Wednesday.
China said it carried out the two days of war games starting Thursday as "punishment" for new President Lai Ching-te's inauguration speech last week, in which he said the two sides of the Taiwan Strait were "not subordinate to each other", which China viewed as a declaration the two are separate countries, Reuters said.
China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Lai rejects China's sovereignty claims, saying only Taiwan's people can decide their future, and has repeatedly offered talks with Beijing but been rebuffed.
Speaking to reporters at parliament, Taiwan National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Ming-yen said the aim of China's drills was not to go to war.
"The purpose of the military exercises was to intimidate," he said.
The drills were meant to show an external and domestic audience that Beijing "has absolute control over the situation in the Taiwan Strait", Tsai added.
Speaking in Beijing, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, reiterated its list of complaints about Lai being a dangerous supporter of Taiwan's formal independence, and threatened continued Chinese military activity.
The drills were a "just action to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity", she said.
"As Taiwan's provocations for independence continue, the People's Liberation Army's actions to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity continue."
The government in Taipei says Taiwan is already an independent country, the Republic of China. The Republican government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong's Communists who set up the People's Republic of China.
China says any decisions on Taiwan's future are for all of China's 1.4 billion people to make, not only Taiwan's 23 million, and has offered a Hong Kong-style "one country, two systems" autonomy model, though that has almost no public support on the island, according to opinion polls.
"Different systems are not an obstacle to reunification, let alone an excuse for separation," Zhu said.
China has never explained how it would integrate Taiwan's vibrant democracy and direct election of its leaders into any plan to govern the island.
China has in the past four years sent its military to areas around Taiwan on an almost daily basis, as it seeks to exert pressure on the island.
But China also appeared to be trying to keep the scope of these drills contained, Tsai's bureau said in a written report to lawmakers, noting there was no declaration of no-fly or no-sail zones and the exercises lasted only two days.
"The intention was to avoid the situation escalating and international intervention, but in the future it is feared (China) will continue its compound coercion against us, gradually changing the Taiwan Strait's status quo," it said.
Tsai added that Chinese forces mobilized almost as soon as China announced the drills early on Thursday.
"The speed was extremely fast, demonstrating rapid mobilization capabilities," he said.