May 22, 2024
House Republicans grilled Columbia University president Nemat Shafik on consequences for certain professors over antisemitic remarks they have made.

House Republicans on Wednesday grilled Columbia University President Dr. Nemat “Minouche” Shafik regarding the employment of a professor who celebrated the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks as “awesome.” 

During the House Education and the Workforce’s hearing to discuss antisemitism on Columbia’s campus, Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., condemned what he called the “perverse” statements by a tenured Columbia professor, Joseph Massad, who is listed as the chair of the School of Arts and Sciences Academic Review Committee. 

In the aftermath of Oct. 7, Massad penned an article praising “the innovative Palestinian Resistance” and Hamas militants for attacking Israel and glorifying Hamas’s slaughter of nearly 1200 Jews. He described the terror attack on southern Israel as “awesome,” “astonishing,” “astounding,” and “incredible.” 

“Professor Massad has also been known to have called Israelis, quote, ‘cruel and bloodthirsty colonizers,’ end quote. And who join them? Israeli military as, quote, ‘baby killing Zionists, Jewish volunteers for Israeli Jewish supremacy,’ end quote,” Walberg said. “In 2005, an investigation by Columbia corroborated allegations that Massad yelled at a Jewish student who questioned his views to, quote, ‘Get out of my classroom.’ Can you imagine free speech diversity on campus?” 

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Minouche Shafik, president of Columbia University, testifies

(Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc)

Walberg blasted how, as chair of the School of Arts and Sciences Academic Review Committee, Massad oversees the periodic review of all departments, centers and institutes and in the school. The congressman asked Shafik if Massad had faced any consequences for his words.

“He has been spoken to,” Shafik replied.

When pressed about whether Massad had faced any further consequences, Shafik said he had been removed as chair of the committee. Later on, House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., stated that Massad was still listed as chair on the school’s website. Shafik said she would have to confirm whether he was still serving in that role. Stefanik pressed Shafik on whether she would remove him from that role if he was indeed still in that position, and she ultimately said, “Yes.”

Walberg noted that Massad is a tenured professor, and asked Columbia Board of Trustees co-chairs Claire Shipman and David Greenwald if they would approve tenure for him if they could make that decision today. Both said they would not.

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Columbia University Alma Mater statue

The statue of Alma Mater on the campus of Columbia University in New York, Oct. 10, 2007. Four months after a contentious congressional hearing led to the resignations of two Ivy League presidents, Columbia University’s president is set to appear before the same committee over questions of antisemitism and the school’s response to escalating conflicts on campus. (AP Photo/Diane Bondareff, File)

Stefanik also pressed Shafik on another professor, Dr. Mohamed Abdou, a visiting professor in Modern Arab Studies. According to the congresswoman, Abdou was hired after the Oct. 7 terrorist attack in Israel, and on Oct. 11, posted “Yes, I’m with Hamas and Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.” Stefanik said the professor also “decried false reports accusing Arabs and Muslims of decapitating the head, decapitating the heads of children and being rapists.” 

“We know that there were decapitations of babies, of innocent Israeli citizens, of seniors of women. There were rapes. And yet Columbia hired this individual as a professor. How did that hiring process work? Were you aware of those statements before the hiring?” Stefanik demanded to know. 

Elise Stefanik

Rep. Elise Stefanik grilled Columbia University president Nemat “Minouche” Shafik regarding inflammatory anti-Israel remarks made by Columbia professors. (Haiyun Jiang/Bloomberg)

Under pressure, Shafik confirmed that Abdou will not be returning after this semester, and he “will never work at Columbia again.” 

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The House GOP chair questioned the presidents of Harvard, UPenn and MIT in December on whether calls for the genocide of Jews violated rules against bullying and harassment of their schools’ codes of conduct. Unlike the presidents of those three universities, the Columbia president and board of trustee co-chairs all answered definitively “Yes” when asked the same question by Democratic Rep. Suzanne Bonanici, of Oregon.