Student protesters at Columbia University walked out of international and public affairs classes Wednesday afternoon — including a lecture by Hillary Clinton — to stand with pro-Palestinian students who have been doxxed and harassed, and feel threatened and unsafe on campus.
A couple dozen students, out of a class of hundreds, stepped out at 3 p.m. of Clinton’s class, co-taught with Dean Keren Yarhi-Milo, while others left at least three other concurrent sessions. Yarhi-Milo had served in Israeli military intelligence in the 1990s.
“You’re not alone, and we’re here for you,” read a call to action ahead of the walkout, shared with the Daily News. The memo specified the protest “does not target any specific member of the administration that may help us or be against us.”
So-called“doxxing trucks,” on which digital billboards have displayed students’ names and photos under the banner “Columbia’s Leading Antisemites,” have paraded around Columbia and other campuses including Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania. The trucks are sponsored by a conservative group not affiliated with the university, Accuracy in Media.
The protesting students planned to sit on the fourth floor in a main thoroughfare of the building known as the “fishbowl.” After the lecture was over, Clinton and Yarhi-Milo slipped out a side door and did not pass the students. Dean Yarhi-Milo returned to speak with students immediately after dropping off her papers, according to the school.
“I have not been subject to doxxing personally but some of my very close friends have been,” one of the students protesters told The News. “They do not feel safe walking on campus, they have been missing classes and are behind studies due to emotional and mental distress, especially due to complete failure of university administration to protect them.”
“I have lost friends for speaking out, have been subject to weird questions on campus for going to protests and vigils, and do not feel safe at all sharing my opinions even within the campus for the fear of being misquoted and called as antisemitic,” said the student, who is Muslim.
The student protesters made a list of demands of the university, including better communication from the administration and the right to free speech. They also called on the administration to investigate if Accuracy in Media was able to obtain photos of Columbia students from a secure, internal school platform.
“The university’s overriding priority is the safety and security of its students and community,” said a spokesperson for Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. “The university and SIPA take this responsibility very seriously — and this includes speaking out against doxing, a dangerous form of intimidation, as unacceptable.”
“Many individuals, including students across several schools, have been subject to these attacks by third parties. This includes disturbing incidents in which trucks have circled the Columbia campus displaying and publicizing the names and photos of Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian students,” they said.
The protest was first reported by The New York Times.
Before the walkout, Yarhi-Milo announced Tuesday a task force on doxxing and student safety of faculty, staff and students. The working group was tasked with developing proposals to prevent doxxing, protect the identities and personal information of students, and reduce on-campus tensions. Students had yet to be selected for the task force, and no deadline was shared for the recommendations.
An university-wide working group with a similar purpose was announced the following day, as well as an antisemitism task force. The former will be in operation through Nov. 30, with the possibility of an extension.