Minouche Shafik, president of Columbia University and until last year director of the London School of Economics, recently appeared before a Congressional committee investigating antisemitism on campus. Rather than defending free speech, she affirmed that students and faculty who had spoken out in defence of Palestinian human rights including the right to self-defence were being censured and suppressed. She may escape the fate of her fellow presidents at Harvard and Penn State who had the temerity to mention First Amendment rights, but at what price? Here is a report from The Chronicle of Higher Education:

How Faculty Discipline Played a Key Role in the Congressional Hearing on Columbia U.

By  Sarah Brown

 Sonel Cutler,  and  Alecia Taylor

APRIL 17, 2024

Columbia University’s president, Nemat (Minouche) Shafik, testifies on Wednesday before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Columbia University’s president delivered much-anticipated testimony at a congressional hearing on Wednesday about campus antisemitism and how the institution has responded to a wave of pro-Palestinian protests, some of which featured language that critics say crossed the line into antisemitism.

Nemat (Minouche) Shafik, who took office last summer, was joined by Claire Shipman and David Greenwald, co-chairs of the university’s Board of Trustees, and David M. Schizer, a professor of law and economics and co-chair of Columbia’s antisemitism task force. The U.S. House’s Committee on Education and the Workforce convened the hearing.

Faculty discipline was a central theme. Several members of Congress pressed Shafik on whether the university planned to discipline faculty members who have derided Israel and, in some cases, praised the “Palestinian resistance” after Hamas’s attack on October 7 that killed 1,200 Israelis. Israel’s retaliatory strikes have killed about 33,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

“We are making sure that, going forward, faculty who cross the line and discriminate or harass students on any issue — there will be consequences,” Shafik said.

Here are three key moments from the hearing that touched on faculty conduct.

“He has been spoken to.”

Rep. Tim Walberg, Republican of Michigan, called attention to Joseph Massad, a professor in the department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies, for his comments shortly after the October 7 attack. Massad wrote in an essay: “The sight of the Palestinian resistance fighters storming Israeli checkpoints separating Gaza from Israel was astounding.”

A online petition calling for the university to remove him drew tens of thousands of signatures. Hundreds of Columbia no students, faculty members, and alumni then signed a letter supporting Massad, saying that he had faced death threats and that the university should protect his physical safety and academic freedom.

On Wednesday, Shafik condemned Massad’s statements and said that “he has been spoken to.” Walberg interrupted Shafik, airing other concerns about Massad’s past conduct and questioning why he was still in the classroom.

Later in the hearing, Shafik said that Massad was under investigation for “discriminatory remarks.”

Walberg also asked Shafik whether Massad should be allowed to continue as chair of Columbia’s academic-review committee for the College of Arts and Sciences. The committee evaluates the quality and effectiveness of the college’s departments, centers, and institutes.

Shafik stressed that faculty members are held accountable for discriminatory behavior, and added, “I believe, to answer your question, he is no longer chair of that committee and does not have a leadership role.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York, then said that Columbia’s website still listed Massad as chair of the academic-review committee.

“I would need to check that,” Shafik said. “I don’t want to misstate …”

“The website’s right here,” Stefanik replied. She later added: “So he hasn’t been removed. So you said in front of Congress under oath that he was removed. Well, I’ll tell you what, he’s still listed as chair.”

Stefanik asked whether Shafik would commit to removing Massad as chair of the committee. After hesitating, Shafik said “yes,” but added that she wanted “to confirm his current status” first.

Massad said in a statement on Wednesday that lawmakers had “deliberately misrepresented” his essay and that he didn’t know that Columbia had placed him under investigation.

“He will never work at Columbia again.”

Stefanik also questioned why Columbia had hired Mohamed Abdou, who has been a visiting professor of modern Arab studies for the spring semester. Abdou posted on October 11, “I am with Hamas and Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.”

Stefanik asked if Columbia was aware of those statements before Abdou was hired. Shafik said she was also repulsed by the comments. “On my watch, faculty who make remarks that cross the line in terms of antisemitism, there will be consequences for them,” she said.

Shafik said there were currently five cases of Columbia faculty members who have either been taken out of the classroom or dismissed over complaints about discrimination or harassment. In Abdou’s case, Shafik said, a note had been placed in his personnel file stating that “he will never work at Columbia again.”

Stefanik then asked about the hiring process for faculty members. Shafik said new employees are required to attest that they have never previously been investigated and found responsible for discrimination or harassment. Pressed further on the matter, Shafik said, “I think we need to look at how to toughen up those requirements.”

Stefanik also asked whether Katherine M. Franke, a professor in Columbia’s law school, had been disciplined after saying that “all Israeli students who have served in the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] are dangerous and shouldn’t be on campus.” Franke told The New York Times that she didn’t make that statement.

Shafik said Franke had been spoken to “by a very senior person in the administration,” and had expressed remorse for how she’d phrased the comment. Later, Shafik said that Franke was under investigation.

“You see the concern here, though, with the lack of enforcement,” Stefanik said. “You see the concern that speaking to these professors is not enough, and it’s sending a message, across the university, that this is tolerated — these antisemitic statements from a position of authority, in professors in the classroom, is tolerated.”

“We’ve had more than 50 complaints about that professor.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, asked how Columbia officials were responding to posts by Shai Davidai, an assistant professor in Columbia’s business school, and allegations that he’d harassed students online.

In recent months, Davidai has called for pro-Palestinian student protesters to be expelled and has described some Columbia students as “pro-terror.”

“Attacking our students is unacceptable,” Shafik said. “And in that case, we’ve had more than 50 complaints about that professor, and he is currently under investigation for harassment and discrimination.”