“Hands Off Our Students”: Barnard and Columbia Faculty Protest Student Arrests, Suspensions, and Evictions

Many professors marched from Low Steps to Milbank Hall to present demands to President Rosenbury and Dean Leslie Grinage.

At 2:00 pm on April 22nd, over a hundred Columbia and Barnard faculty members gathered on the steps of Low Library to protest the administration’s treatment of students in response to the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” established on April 17th.

Multiple professors, wearing regalia and white sashes with the words “we support students” handwritten in marker, gave speeches to a crowd of hundreds of students on Columbia’s Low Steps. Barnard faculty members in the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) then led a rally to Barnard’s campus and marched into Milbank Hall, where Dean Leslie Grinage and President Laura Rosenbury’s offices are located.

“We are seeing a crisis of confidence in the leadership,” said Elizabeth Bernstein, Professor and Chair of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies and Professor of Sociology at Barnard, at the rally. 

Holding signs that said “Rosenbury: do not bully our students,” “Bold. Beautiful. Suspended.,” “Barnard College censors free speech,” and “education is love,” the faculty, many wearing their academic regalia, engaged in an unprecedented display of solidarity with their students.

As they flooded Milbank Hall, accompanied by students, professors led chants demanding: “no suspensions,” “house our students,” “feed our students,” and “academic freedom.”  Given the Barnard administration’s silence since the NYPD sweep, protestors repeatedly chanted “Talk to us! Talk to us!” outside of Dean Grinage’s office.

Protesters then marched towards President Rosenbury’s office, chanting “Who are we coming for? Rosenbury!” 

After waiting and chanting outside Rosenbury’s office for a few minutes, the faculty members discovered that Rosenbury was not in her office and that her team could not be found. 

The rally then relocated to Futter Field, where professors attempted to take down the barricades around the field. While some professors went around the barricades on either side of Futter and moved onto the field, yelling “free the free speech zone,” faculty members of the AAUP read aloud a letter addressed to Dean Grinage. 

The faculty rally comes four days after Columbia President Shafik authorized for 108 students protesting in the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” to be removed and arrested by the NYPD. Students from both Columbia and Barnard were suspended, and Barnard students were evicted from their campus housing with only 15 minutes to gather their belongings. 

The AAUP letter outlines three demands from the college – the immediate dismissal of all suspensions and charges against Barnard student protesters, no new policies implemented without “meaningful faculty participation as defined by the faculty,” and “no new disciplinary proceedings be initiated without faculty support.” 

The letter also argues that Barnard student protesters have not disrupted teaching, rather that the environment created by the school’s policies have. The letter explains: “These actions have disrupted our ability to teach and our students ability to learn far more than any protest has.”

“It is hard to believe that an institution tasked with the education and care of young people would intentionally endanger the safety of young students to punish them,” the faculty letter writes, “let alone an institution like Barnard that prides itself on its communities of care. Indeed, we seem to have entered a new era where Barnard punishes its students by endangering their safety.”