Event Policy and Campus Resources FAQ
Since October 7, 2023, the atmosphere on Columbia’s campus has been highly charged. Many community members—including Arab, Israeli, Jewish, Muslim, and Palestinian students—have told University leadership that they feel unsafe on campus during this period of heightened protest activity. Maintaining safety on our campuses is one of the University’s fundamental concerns. After consultations with the Executive Committee of the University Senate, a new Interim University Policy for Safe Demonstrations is now in place in conjunction with the current events policy. The goal of this interim policy is to preserve freedom of speech while ensuring that Columbia can continue to fulfill its mission as a center of research and learning for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. To ensure everyone has the facts and information on our policies and available resources, we are posting this FAQ.
University departments, offices, groups, and student organizations and non-affiliates requesting to reserve campus facilities are expected to follow University Event Policies, which are publicly available here. Event policies are intended to make all official group gatherings as safe as possible, and to minimize any disruption of ongoing instruction, research, and other activities taking place on campus.
Undergraduate student groups are managed by governing boards, which are subject to some oversight from Undergraduate Student Life. Student groups must abide by a variety of policies, including those unrelated to events, to be officially recognized. These policies include discussions between student organization representatives and their official advisers at their respective schools. For undergraduates, the advisers work at USL. Advisers establish protocols for working with student organizations; they require that organization leaders participate in training, and expect them to follow procedures, including their obligation to provide the University advance notice of proposed events.
Most of these rules have existed for years alongside many other policies held by the administration and applicable to student groups. In the days after October 7, 2023, the Columbia University Event Management and University Life Offices updated and codified University event policies to make them as clear as possible.
As of February 19, 2024, after consultations with the Executive Committee of the University Senate, a new Interim University Policy for Safe Demonstrations is now in place in conjunction with the current events policy.
Maintaining safety on our campuses remains one of the University’s fundamental concerns. Our advance-notice requirements for special events are critical to let us prepare for them. Above all, that means ensuring that we have sufficient personnel available and present to keep events safe—an increasing challenge as we face demand at levels rarely seen for resources to keep campus safe. Our policies are not intended to inhibit freedom of expression. They ensure our campus remains a space where debate and protest are encouraged and protected.
At various points in recent weeks, advisers have warned all groups that failure to work with their advisers under our processes, especially on advance notice requirements, would have consequences.
The administration acted only when SJP and JVP proceeded, despite clear warning, to hold a walkout on November 9, 2023, without complying with the requirements for advance notice and consultation. With other peer organizations from both aisles showing a willingness to work with us under our processes in the expectation of equal treatment of all, the choice presented was to enforce the policies against the groups that were unwilling to work with us or concede there are no processes for anyone. In this highly charged environment, we considered the no-processes-for-anyone option unacceptable.
Nothing could be further from the truth. These requirements apply to all student organizations and are enforced equally as they pertain to all groups. They apply irrespective of the views being expressed.
Groups on both sides of the Israel-Hamas war have worked with their advisers to provide notice and satisfy other requirements, and their activities are going forward, as evidenced by events on both sides after the temporary suspension of SJP and JVP.
We are enforcing processes for hosting events on campus necessary for us to ensure that debate and protest take place fairly and safely. Applying the requirements uniformly to all groups, regardless of the views they express, is the only even-handed way for us to guarantee that all voices and viewpoints can be heard.
The suspension is temporary and intended to get the non-complying groups back to working with their official advisers. When they resume working with advisers, as our policy requires they do, the suspension will be lifted.
These are challenging and stressful days for the many members of our community who are personally affected by the crisis in Israel and Gaza. To all the students, faculty, and staff who are struggling, we are committed to doing everything possible to support you and preserving campus as a safe and welcoming place. We have created a webpage of resources that can be helpful in navigating these challenging times, as well as policies and procedures regarding conduct and behavior.
President Shafik has repeatedly said that we will not tolerate antisemitic actions and are moving forcefully against antisemitic threats, images, and other violations as they are reported, and we will continue to provide additional resources to protect our campuses. But we also need to address the root causes. That’s why President Shafik announced the formation of a Task Force on Antisemitism to enhance our ability to address this ancient, but terribly resilient, form of hatred. In the coming months, the task force will identify practical ways to enhance support for all members of the Columbia, Barnard, and Teachers College communities, particularly our Jewish students. Longer term, it will recommend changes related to academic and extracurricular offerings and administrative policies. More information on the Task Force is available here.
The University has an obligation to assure members of its community that they can continue in their academic pursuits without fear for their personal security or other serious intrusions on their ability to teach and to study. Columbia supports free speech and expression, but our rules of conduct do not allow or condone language that promotes or supports violence in any manner. Calls for genocide against the Jewish community or any other group are abhorrent, inconsistent with our values and against our rules. Incitement to violence against members of our community will not be tolerated.
Columbia’s Public Safety team is available at any time of day, every day. We have increased the presence of public safety officers across all of our campuses. Public safety resources, including the on-demand evening shuttle, safety escort program, and emergency lines, are available here.
To streamline support for the members of our community who are the targets of doxing, Columbia and Barnard together have established a Doxing Resource Group composed of key offices across both campuses that are focused on the issue. This group serves as a centralized point of contact for issues related to doxing, harassment, and online security. More information on the resource group is available here, and resources to assist those who have been targeted or doxed are available here.
After consultations with the Executive Committee of the University Senate, a new Interim University Policy for Safe Demonstrations is now in place in conjunction with the current events policy. The goal of this interim policy is to preserve freedom of speech while ensuring that Columbia can continue to fulfill its mission as a center of research and learning for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.
The University recognizes two kinds of limitations on freedom of expression:
- Content-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions. These are necessary because they enable free speech, freedom of the press, and academic freedom. Just as all members of the University community have the right to speak, study, research, teach, and express their own views, so must the University ensure that community members allow others to do the same. The freedom to demonstrate cannot come at the expense of others’ freedom to counter-demonstrate, teach, or engage in academic pursuits requiring uninterrupted attention.
- Restrictions on expression that constitutes a genuine threat of harassment, that unjustifiably invades an individual’s privacy, or that defames an individual. These forms of expression do not advance the University’s truth-seeking mission and impair the ability of individuals to participate in that mission. The University has an obligation to assure members of its community that they can continue in their academic pursuits without fear for their personal security or other serious intrusions on their ability to teach and study.
Violations of time, place, and manner restrictions may be addressed through policies including the University Event Policy and Student Group Event Policy and Procedure. Expression that constitutes harassment or other forms of discrimination, invasion of privacy, or defamation may be addressed through EOAA or Human Resources policies and procedures or under the University’s Standards and Discipline.