Over 1,700 alumni have pledged to withhold support for Columbia unless demands including divestment, amnesty for students, support for the Harlem community, and President Shafik’s removal are met.

In a May 3 statement addressed to Columbia President Minouche Shafik and the Board of Trustees, over 1,700 individuals have pledged to withhold all “financial, programmatic, and academic support of Columbia University” until all of their demands are met. Signatures include students and alumni from Columbia as well as non-affiliates. 

The group, named We Are Columbia, has compiled demands in tandem with those of Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD). Most notably, alumni want full divestment from “all companies and institutions that fund or profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and occupation in Palestine” and the removal of President Shafik. Other demands include amnesty for students, financial transparency from the University, an end to NYPD presence, reinstatement of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), removal of academic ties to Israel, investment in the Morningside Heights neighborhood, and for the administration to publicly call for a ceasefire. 

The We Are Columbia website lists 18 different alumni solidarity letters, including letters from colleges and identity groups which are addressed to the administration accordingly. The website states that as of May 9, over $74 million in financial contributions are currently at risk. 

In their May 3 statement, alumni wrote that the “student movement for Palestine is an ethically urgent one.” They stated that they are “beyond appalled at how far University administration has gone to protect their investments at the expense of student safety and intellectual inquiry.”

The alumni stated multiple “alarming instances of mistreatment” of students, the press, and legal observers during the April 30 NYPD sweep. They claimed they hold “President Shafik and her administration responsible for a total failure of their duty of care.” In the following weeks since her congressional hearing, President Shafik’s leadership has been called into question by students, faculty, and elected officials.

Furthermore, the alumni claimed “peaceful escalation” is a “longstanding part of Columbia’s legacy of student activism,” citing the occupation of Hamilton Hall in 1968 and 1983.

The letter comes days after the second NYPD sweep of campus. The alumni stated that they “condemn in the harshest terms the administration’s brutal repression of student speech and assembly,” noting the presence of the Strategic Response Group (SRG). The SRG has been denounced by the New York Civil Liberties Union, who claims they “abuse their mandate to consistently escalate and bring violence to protesters who are exercising their first amendment rights.” 

One signatory, Taha Saeed, GSAS ‘23, told the Palestine News Agency, “It’s truly disappointing to see the way the university has been responding to the students… Universities are places for free speech and discourse, not police brutality. Most importantly, by failing to review its investments and divest where appropriate, the university is playing a role in the ongoing violence in Gaza. I hope they wake up and get on the right side of history.” 

Similarly, a CC’ 03 and CLS ’10 alumna said, “I sign because my Jewish values of inquiry, empathy and moral courage compel me to… These values were nurtured in Columbia classrooms, and I know other Columbia students share them. Until my university can conduct itself in accordance with those values internally, within its communities, and around the world, it does not deserve my esteem, much less contributions of my time, money or skills.”

The letter closed with the alumni noting the over 200 days of “over two million Gazans hav[ing] been displaced and over 42,510 hav[ing] been killed.” Alumni urged Columbia to “act boldly in support of Palestinian life and liberation” and stated that “anything less” is a “betrayal of the core lessons [alumni] were taught at Columbia University.”

Avery Hall via Bwog Archives