US University Presidents Face Faculty Backlash Over Handling of Gaza Protests

Sat May 18 2024
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WASHINGTON: Amidst student protests and encampments condemning Israel’s military actions in Gaza, university presidents in the United States are confronting a wave of faculty discontent and retribution over their handling of the pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

The ongoing protests, which have continued for weeks as the academic year draws to a close, have enraged faculty members to formally express their apprehensions regarding the senior administrations’ response to the largely peaceful student movements.

At Columbia University in New York, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences delivered a strong rebuke by passing a vote of “no confidence” directed at President Nemat Minouche Shafik. The vote was a direct response to Shafik’s recent congressional testimony and her administration’s crackdown on students who had established an encampment on campus.

The resolution, introduced by Columbia’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, underscored concerns about academic freedom and governance. David Lurie, the president of the association, voiced the faculty’s disillusionment, citing a series of missteps and overreaches by the senior administration throughout the academic year.

Similarly, at the University of Southern California the faculty senate recently censured President Carol Folt and Provost Andrew Guzman. The decision came in the wake of the cancellation of a speech by the valedictorian, a Muslim student who had yet to finalize her address. The faculty resolution highlighted widespread dissatisfaction with administrative actions and decisions, particularly the heavy-handed response to student protesters.

As the academic year draws to a close at universities across the nation, university heads who opted for strict measures in response to student protests are facing backlash from faculty members. The prevailing sentiment among faculty appears to be one of disapproval towards administrative overreach and suppression of student voices.

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