Skip to main content

Columbia University shifts to hybrid classes as pro-Palestinian demonstrations persist

The decision is seen as a win for protestors calling to 'halt the functioning' of the institution 'by any means necessary'
Columbia University campus after the institution moved to hybrid format classes following pro-Palestinian demonstrations, on 23 April 2024 (Azad Essa/MEE)

Columbia University announced late on Monday that all classes would immediately become hybrid format for the rest of the academic semester, as the institution is roiled by pro-Palestinian demonstrations opposed to Israel’s war on Gaza.

The university said on Monday evening local time that all courses at its Morningside Heights main campus will move to hybrid form, meaning a remote option will be available for all until the end of each school’s spring 2024 semester on 29 April.

It also said that administrative staff have the option to work remotely.

“All faculty whose classrooms are located on the main Morningside campus and equipped with hybrid capabilities should … provide virtual learning options to students who need such a learning modality,” the statement said.

“Faculty in other classrooms or teaching spaces that do not have capabilities for offering hybrid options should hold classes remotely if there are student requests for virtual participation,” the statement added.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


Columbia’s move represents a major victory for pro-Palestinian students who have turned up in the hundreds under one banner to “halt the functioning of the university by any means necessary”.

Several students and professors told Middle East Eye that before the statement certain classes were already moving to undisclosed venues off campus.

On Thursday, university authorities called police to break up the protests, leading to more than 100 arrests. The move sparked a firestorm of even greater pro-Palestinian sentiment.

Pro-Israel Columbia professor accused of harassment prevented from accessing main campus
Read More »

"The university absolutely shot itself in the foot here. When the first encampment started, I was trying to stay out of trouble. I sat on the steps far away and watched," one Jewish student at Columbia told MEE for a previous story.

"When the arrests started, I saw my friends being dragged away ... treated so awfully by these giant police officers, and it was so cruel. It was very upsetting."

Over the past 24 hours, student encampments have mushroomed at universities across the country, at least 27 universities at the time of writing.

Student encampments demanding divestment from companies involved in Israel's occupation of Palestinian land and "genocide" in Gaza have popped up at the Massachusetts Insitute of Technology (MIT); Tufts and Emerson in Boston; New York University and The New School in New York City; Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee; Yale University in Connecticut; University of California-Berkeley; The University of Michigan; Washington University in St Louis; and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

On social media, some mocked Columbia’s decision to move to a hybrid format.

“There are now growing calls for tuition refunds for the $70k a year college now that it has practically turned into an online school,” one social media user said.

The move also underscores the tightrope Columbia and the universities are facing as they respond to the unprecedented demonstrations. Online some blasted Columbia’s decision for giving in to protestors and not cracking down harder on the demonstrations.

Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots and a major Columbia donor, said he would withhold donations to the school.

“I am no longer confident that Columbia can protect its students and staff and I am not comfortable supporting the university until corrective action is taken,” he said in a statement posted on X.

Meanwhile, scores of students and faculty members at several universities are enraged by Columbia’s decision to call in police to break up demonstrators amid their anger over Israel’s war in Gaza that has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, mainly women and children. Faculty members at Columbia and Barnard College staged a walkout on Monday.

On Monday, Hundreds of police stormed an encampment in support of Palestinians in Gaza at New York University while some Muslim students were praying, arresting more than 128 demonstrators, according to the NYU Palestine Solidarity Coalition. At least a dozen members of the faculty were included in those who were arrested. 

The statement also claimed that NYU enacted a “lockdown” of university buildings and campus grounds against pro-Palestinian students. In response, the students conducted a walkout at Washington Square Park.

Israel’s war on Gaza erupted after the Hamas-led 7 October attacks on southern Israel killed about 1,200 people and saw more than 200 hostages taken to Gaza.

In retaliation, Israel launched a ferocious assault on the besieged enclave, killing more than 34,000 Palestinians, mainly women and children. 

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.