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The New Guard

Columbia University Senate Adopts Neutral Stance on Political Issues Amid Controversy

By

Corey Walker

February 13, 2024

Columbia University Senate passed a resolution to adopt a neutral stance on political issues, according to reports. 

The university senate included the resolution in a set of guidelines affirming the school’s commitment to “academic freedom and self governance.”  The resolution explains that university officials and departments are to not express opinions on political topics while acting on behalf of the school. 

Columbia’s resolution is seemingly inspired by the Kalven Principles, a set of guidelines first established at the University of Chicago. The principles acknowledge free speech as an integral part of the university experience and recognize that university-sponsored political endorsements can unintentionally silence students and faculty with opposing viewpoints. Over 100 universities have adopted some form of the Kalven Principles.

The Columbia Academic Freedom Council, a faculty organization dedicated to expanding freedom of speech at the university, touted the senate’s adoption of the resolution as suggested by their “Kalven Committee.”

“The University and its leaders should refrain from taking political positions in their institutional capacity, either as explicit statements or as the basis of policy, except in the rare case when the University has a compelling institutional interest, such as a legal obligation, that requires it to do so,” the resolution reads. 

The Council pointed out that the resolution shares similarities with their “Statement of Responsibilities,” which states that the the organization believes, “as the Kalven Committee stated in 1967, that a university is “the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic.” We believe that Columbia University should affirmatively, proactively, and publicly honor this principle, except in the rare case when the University has a compelling institutional interest, such as a legal obligation, that requires it to take a position.”

Columbia University has faced immense backlash over alleged institutional bias in the wake of the Hamas terror attacks on Israel on October 7th, 2023. Left-wing student groups rushed to blame the Jewish state for the bloody attacks, which left over 1,000 Jews killed and hundreds taken hostage into Gaza. The university has been rocked with anti-Israel protests in the following months, which has resulted in physical altercations and an increased police presence on campus. Prominent donors have distanced themselves from the school and have pulled back funding, citing dissatisfaction with the university’s handling of antisemitism against Jewish students. 

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