Columbia President Minouche Shafik, Barnard President Laura Rosenbury, and Teachers College President Thomas Bailey sent out a joint statement on November 1 announcing a community-wide Task Force on Antisemitism.

This afternoon, Presidents Shafik, Rosenbury, and Bailey announced the formation of Columbia University’s Task Force on Antisemitism to address Jewish-directed hate on campus. The announcement stated that antisemitism should have been “relegated to the dustbin of history,” but that it remains prevalent throughout the globe and within the University. The full text of the announcement can be found below.

This announcement comes after antisemitic incidents were reported on Columbia’s campus and Jewish students expressed concerns for their safety. It also comes in the wake of several campus wide protests, organized by both pro-Palestine and pro-Israel student groups, the appearance of “doxing trucks” on campus, increased NYPD presence, and restricted public access to campus. 

The task force will be led by three University faculty and administration members, including Professor of International and Public Affairs and Political Science Professor Ester Fuchs, Columbia Journalism School Dean Nicholas Lemann, and Columbia Law School Dean David M. Schizer. The email additionally outlines a plan to appoint additional co-chairs and members of the task force from Barnard and Teachers College. The task force plans to address both short- and long-term goals: improvement of practical support for Jewish members of the community, addressing the roots of antisemitism at Columbia, and extending changes within existing academic and extracurricular programming that addresses the experiences of students, faculty, and staff. 

The announcement comes six days after President Rosenbury announced significant policy changes at Barnard, including increasing the number of security officers on campus. Rosenbury’s email drew significant controversy among student groups and faculty members alike. On Tuesday, an open letter was published condemning Rosenbury’s statement, saying that its equivocation of antisemitism and anti-Zionism “undercut academic freedom and free speech” at the College. The letter was signed by over 650 community members, including several prominent faculty members. Wednesday’s announcement makes no statement on the matter. 

Email from Columbia President Minouche Shafik, Barnard President Laura Rosenbury, and Teachers College President Thomas Bailey to students at 12:06 pm on Wednesday, November 1:

Dear fellow members of the Columbia, Barnard, and Teachers College communities,

Today we are announcing the formation of a Task Force on Antisemitism to enhance our ability to address this ancient, but terribly resilient, form of hatred. We are taking this step as part of a commitment to ensuring that our campuses are safe, welcoming, and inclusive for Jewish students, faculty and staff, and all of us. 

One would hope that by the twenty-first century, antisemitism would have been relegated to the dustbin of history. But it has been rising here in New York, across the country, and around the world in recent years. We also know that antisemitism can escalate during conflicts far from our campuses, translating into hateful speech and acts directed at Jewish people here at Columbia, Barnard, and Teachers College. We have been distressed that a series of antisemitic incidents on campus have been reported in the three weeks following the October 7 terror attack in Israel and outbreak of war in Gaza.

We want to reiterate that we will not tolerate such actions and are moving forcefully against antisemitic threats, images, and other violations as they are reported, and we will continue to provide additional resources to protect our campuses. But we also need to address the root causes. The Task Force on Antisemitism will be a critical tool for making our institutions more inclusive and compassionate.

In the coming months, the task force will identify practical ways for our safety and inclusion work to enhance support for all members of the Columbia, Barnard, and Teachers College communities, particularly our Jewish students. Longer term, it will recommend more ambitious changes related to academic and extracurricular offerings and student, faculty, and staff training programs.

We are pleased that the task force will be led by Ester Fuchs, Professor of International and Public Affairs and Political Science and Director of the Urban and Social Policy Program at SIPA; Nicholas Lemann, Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor of Journalism and Columbia Journalism School Dean Emeritus; and David M. Schizer, Harvey R. Miller Professor of Law and Economics and Columbia Law School Dean Emeritus. In the coming days, we will appoint Barnard and Teachers College co-chairs along with additional diverse task force members from the three institutions, and build the foundation for a thoughtful, rigorous, and impactful process.

Community and values don’t stand on their own. We must constantly reaffirm and reinforce them with action. The Task Force on Antisemitism represents the first in a series of steps we will be announcing in the coming days to reinvigorate community building, develop robust support networks, and tackle head on the destructive forces that seek to cause harm and divide us across a range of issues. This is an opportunity for every academic department, every faculty member and teaching assistant, every member of the administration, and every member of the Columbia, Barnard, and Teachers College student family to bring their ideas, life experiences, and spirit to help us emerge as a stronger and more cohesive community.

Minouche Shafik

President, Columbia University in the City of New York

Laura Ann Rosenbury

President, Barnard College

Thomas R. Bailey

President, Teachers College