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"When you close universities, it means the other side wins": Trump attacks Columbia for giving in to antisemitic protests

“Columbia should gain a little strength, a little courage and keep their school open,” said the former president.

(Charly Triballeau / AFP)

Amid strong antisemitic protests at Columbia University, former President Donald Trump attacked the university authorities for giving in to the pro-Hamas protesters by closing the campus for “safety” reasons and announcing that classes will be virtual or hybrid until the end of the semester.

In statements to the press this Tuesday, Trump, who was meeting with former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, said that Columbia authorities had to find the courage to keep the university open and thus prevent “the other side” from winning.

“Columbia should gain a little strength, a little courage and keep their school open,” Trump said just after being asked whether he would visit Jewish students after it was revealed that House Speaker Mike Johnson will visit the Columbia campus on Wednesday.

“It’s crazy because that means the other side wins,” continued Trump, who is in the middle of a criminal trial in Manhattan for allegedly falsifying business records. “When you start closing down colleges and universities—that means the other side [wins.]

Later, Trump pointed to Aso and said, “In Japan, they don’t know about that. They don’t close. They keep it open. They make it work.”

“The people running Columbia have made a grave mistake,” said the former president.

The former president’s harsh words against the Columbia authorities come after a week where antisemitic groups took the main campus of the university in protest, demanding that the university drop affiliations with groups that support Israel amid its war with the terrorist group Hamas.

Due to the protests and the refusal to request police support to evict the antisemites, the authorities reported this Tuesday that classes had become virtual or hybrid amid continuing concerns for the safety of students not involved in pro-Hamas demonstrations.

As of Tuesday morning, updated guidance from Columbia University noted that all courses at the main Morningside campus have moved to hybrid learning “through the end of each school’s spring 2024 semester.”

“Safety is our highest priority as we strive to support our students’ learning and all the required academic operations,” Columbia Provost Angela Olinto announced in a statement released early Tuesday. “It’s vital that teaching and learning continue during this time.”

The closure of the campus comes one day after the city police entered New York University to evict antisemitic camps, an action that Columbia has not requested because the university authorities consider that the university should be able to resolve these demonstrations peacefully and in community.