Columbia Law Dean Resigns Amid Raging Campus Antisemitism

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Brandon Poulter Contributor
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The dean of Columbia’s law school resigned Wednesday, according to a press release, after pro-Palestinian protests rocked the campus.

Gillian Lester has served as dean of Columbia Law School since 2015, and Columbia announced that she would be stepping down and return to teaching at the end of the 2023-2034 academic year, according to a university press release. The move comes amid criticism of her response to antisemitic incidents and accusations of Islamophobia, according to the Columbia Spectator. (RELATED: Jewish Professor Banned From Campus After Deceptively-Edited Video Of Him Wishing Death On Hamas Went Viral)

“Gillian has focused the Law School on cultivating a welcoming and inclusive environment, and reducing financial barriers for students to earn a degree and pursue the career path of their choice. She significantly expanded student financial aid by establishing more than 100 new scholarships, created tailored programs to support students pursuing careers in the public interest, and invested in making Columbia’s loan repayment assistance program one of the most generous of its kind in the country,” the press release reads.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 20: People gather to protest the banning of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) at Columbia University on November 20, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Law school students participated in a sit-in in the lobby of Columbia Law School Nov. 16, and Lester met with the demonstrators before the protest to hear their views, according to the Spectator. The protest took over the lobby for over three hours and violated multiple school rules on student gatherings, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Lester initially described the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel, which killed over 1,400 people including unarmed women and children, as “violence that erupted in Israel and Gaza” in an Oct. 9 statement, according to the Free Beacon. “I want to acknowledge the trauma, fear, and despair that you are feeling in the aftermath of the atrocious terrorist attacks on Israel,” Lester said in a statement one day later.

The Columbia Law School Middle Eastern Law Students Association and Law Students for a Free Palestine said Lester failed to respond to incidents of “Islamophobia,” according to a Monday Instagram post. The post said she and other deans should create “mechanisms to address anti-Arab discrimination and Islamophobia at our law school.”

“In addition to her leadership at the Law School, Gillian served with distinction on the University’s COVID-19 Task Force, where she oversaw the University-wide effort to ensure continuity of our pedagogical mission during that time of unprecedented challenge and disruption,” the press release continues.

Columbia suspended Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace on Nov. 10 for violating school rules regarding campus events. The university accused the groups of ignoring warnings and holding an “unauthorized event” Thursday which “included threatening rhetoric and intimidation.”

Columbia did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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