Jewish-American alum says Columbia president should have taken these steps 'the second' protests started

An alumna of Barnard College, one of Columbia’s four undergraduate colleges, is watching the anti-Israel protests and general unrest at Columbia University with a heavy heart.

Dozens of students were arrested and suspended at Yale and Columbia universities after anti-Israel protesters set up encampments on campus in the past week. The anti-Israel protests at Columbia even prompted school officials to allow students to attend classes virtually starting on Monday, the first day of Passover.

Rabbi Elie Buechler, a rabbi associated with Columbia University’s Orthodox Union Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus, recently warned Jewish students to stay home as the campus atmosphere grows increasingly unwelcome.

“The events of the last few days, especially last night, have made it clear that Columbia’s Public Safety and the NYPD cannot guarantee Jewish students’ safety in the face of extreme antisemitism and anarchy,” Buechler wrote. “It deeply pains me to say that I would strongly recommend you return home as soon as possible and remain home until the reality in and around campus has dramatically improved.”


Anti-Israel agitators gather on Columbia University’s campus in New York City on Monday, April 22, 2024. The university announced that all classes would be held virtually starting Monday in response to the ongoing demonstrations on campus. (Peter Gerber)

Daniella Greenbaum Davis, a Jewish-American writer, Emmy-winning producer, and alumna of Barnard College, remembers a similarly charged atmosphere during her own tenure, one where she heard shouts of “intifada” or calls to bring intifada to campus. But, she said, today’s demonstrations have reached a new level of extreme.

“I do not think I would send my kids to Columbia right now,” Davis told Fox News Digital.

Davis is also a third-generation Holocaust survivor and recently shared part of her family’s harrowing history on X.

“My great great grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz,” she wrote on Oct. 13, less than a week after Hamas’ terror attack against Israel. “My great grandmother lived under the Nuremberg laws. My grandmother survived Bergen Belsen. Jews, despite the anguish, never forget: we will survive this too. But the trauma is imprinted on our genes.”


This Passover at Columbia will be peppered with increased security for upcoming events and services, with police presence at the Kraft Center, a Jewish cultural center shared by Columbia and Barnard College, while students can get walking escorts to and from the building, according to reports.

“If you need a physical escort to get from your dorm to where you’re gathering to have a religious meal on campus, that is not a campus I would choose to send my Jewish children to,” Davis said. “And I can’t think of a Jewish parent in America that would choose to send their children to that kind of environment.”

Students at Columbia University returned to the campus’ lawn area Friday morning to continue their anti-Israel protest and say they will “hold this line” until their demands are met. (FNTV)

When Davis was a student, she said the administration reacted to the campus unrest with a “collective shrug.” She acknowledged the current faculty did seem to honor students’ wishes to do remote-only learning for the time being, but criticized their other actions just as forcefully.

I don’t think any action that sort of kowtows to this mob is a good strategic choice,” she said. “On the other hand, a request for Zoom classes, to my knowledge, actually originated from Jewish students who genuinely were like, ‘we do not feel safe or comfortable on campus right now.’ In that vein, I do think it was good that they gave them that option. But I think the university is very clearly in compromise and catering to this mob.”


Some Columbia faculty walked out of classes in solidarity with the demonstrators and to protest against the school president’s decision to have police arrest students at a pro-Palestinian encampment protest.

“I think there should be a zero tolerance policy for what’s going on,” Davis said.” And that’s definitely not what’s happening.”

“I am deeply saddened by what is happening on our campus,” President Dr. Nemat “Minouche” Shafik wrote in a statement Monday. “Our bonds as a community have been severely tested in ways that will take a great deal of time and effort to reaffirm. Students across an array of communities have conveyed fears for their safety and we have announced additional actions we are taking to address security concerns. The decibel of our disagreements has only increased in recent days. These tensions have been exploited and amplified by individuals who are not affiliated with Columbia who have come to campus to pursue their own agendas. We need a reset.”

But Davis defined the president’s leadership as “poor.” She said Shafik should have taken symbolic steps at the outset of the protests.

“I think the second this started in earnest, she should have hung up an Israeli flag, as well as an American flag, outside the main building on campus, because these students are not just protesting against Israel, they’re protesting against America,” Davis said. “And I think it should have been a very clear message that what they’re doing is unacceptable and fundamentally doesn’t represent the university’s interests.”

Other immediate actions, she said, would have been to expel the students harassing Jewish students and live up to their mantra of defending students’ rights to protest, while also tamping down demonstrations that have devolved away from peace.

Anti-Israel agitators construct an encampment on Columbia University’s campus in New York City on Monday, April 22, 2024. The university announced that all classes would be held virtually starting Monday in response to the ongoing demonstrations on campus. (Peter Gerber)

“As President Shafik has said repeatedly, the safety of our community is our number one priority,” a Columbia spokesperson told Fox News Digital in a statement. “Columbia students have the right to protest, but they are not allowed to disrupt campus life or harass and intimidate fellow students and members of our community.We are acting on concerns we are hearing from our Jewish students and are providing additional support and resources to ensure that our community remains safe.”


Amid the campus chaos, the White House also released a statement.

“While every American has the right to peaceful protest, calls for violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community are blatantly antisemitic, unconscionable, and dangerous,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement Sunday.

Davis said she’s been in touch with several Columbia students, some of whom she suggested were regretting their choice in higher education.

“They’re all incredibly exhausted, demoralized, sad,” she said. “Some of them are determined, angry. But, I mean, no one’s feeling good. And I think there’s just this constant pull and push of, like ‘do we stay and fight for the school that we were so excited to get into and so happy to be at? Or do we recognize that it’s someplace that is fundamentally so hostile to us? Like maybe we don’t want to be here at all?’

I think that’s weighing really heavily on them,” Davis said.

Cortney O’Brien is an Editor at Fox News. Twitter: @obrienc2

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