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Federal judges to ‘boycott’ Columbia students over protests

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(The Center Square) — More than a dozen federal judges are pledging not to hire students from Columbia University over its handling of the pro-Palestinian protests on campus, saying the elite school has become an “incubator of bigotry” against Jewish people.

In a letter to Columbia President Minouche Shafik, the 13 judges said they would no longer hire undergraduates or law students from the university beginning with the incoming class of 2024 this fall.

The judges said the elite university, which canceled its main graduation ceremony because of the unrest, allowed the “virulent spread of antisemitism” during the protests until they were broken up by the New York Police Department last week.

“Freedom of speech protects protest, not trespass, and certainly not acts or threats of violence or terrorism,” the judges wrote. “It has become clear that Columbia applies double standards when it comes to free speech and student misconduct.”

The letter was signed by federal appellate judges James Ho and Elizabeth Branch, who previously led a clerkship boycott of Yale Law School and Stanford Law School in response to a string of incidents in which conservative speakers were shouted down.

Overall, the judges said Columbia’s handling of the demonstrations shows that it “has destroyed its ability to train future leaders of a pluralistic and intellectually diverse country.”

“By favoring certain viewpoints over others based on their popularity and acceptance in certain circles, Columbia has failed as a legitimate, never mind elite, institution of higher education,” they wrote.

The signatories, which include Judge Matthew Solomson of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, noted that former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan had refused to hire law clerks from Harvard Law School because he disliked criticisms of the high court by some of its faculty.

“The objective of our boycott is different — it is not to hamper academic freedom, but to restore it at Columbia University,” they wrote.

The demonstrations at Columbia were part of a wave of anti-Israel protests that have swept U.S. college campuses over the past week in response to Israel’s war in Gaza, which was prompted by the Oct. 7 attack by the terrorist group Hamas that killed 1,200 Israelis and injured many others. Hamas also took hostages, many of whom are still in captivity.

Dozens of arrests have been made at Columbia University, Harvard, Yale, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other elite schools as campus police and law enforcement have been called in to take down the make-shift encampments, which violate school policies. Nearly 2,000 people have been arrested at 30 college campuses, according to published reports.

The judges outlined steps Columbia needs to take to “reclaim its once-distinguished reputation,” including “serious consequences” for students and faculty who have participated in a campus encampment and demonstrations and “dramatic change in the composition of its faculty and administration” at the university.

Besides support from conservative judges, Columbia is also beginning to lose some of its most prominent patrons, with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft pledging to stop contributing to the university, citing “virulent hate” during the pro-Palestinian protests.

Jewish billionaires Leon Cooperman and Henry Swieca have also cut ties with the university, according to published reports. Swieca, founder of Talpion Fund Management who got his MBA at Columbia, argued in a letter that the school’s reputation and integrity have been “significantly compromised by a moral cowardice that appears beyond repair.”

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