Columbia University Closes Investigation Into Harassment of Jewish Students Without Identifying a Single Suspect

Columbia struggles to identify anti-Israel agitators who wore face coverings

(Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
June 7, 2024

Columbia University has closed its investigation into the individuals who threw water at a group of Jewish students amid the anti-Israel encampment that plagued campus for weeks without identifying those involved in the incident.

Columbia notified the student who reported the incident on Thursday that the school had been unable to identify the individuals who threw water at Jewish students during a night of anti-Israel demonstrations on April 20 that included violent clashes and explicit calls for terrorism. The email said that while Columbia’s public safety department "conducted a thorough investigation" it was "unable to identify specific individual respondents," and would thus "be closing this case."

"Columbia Public Safety conducted a thorough investigation into other reported incidents at the Sundial on the evening of April 20, 2024, specifically the individuals that made remarks, and that allegedly threw water at students, and we were unable to identify specific individual respondents. As a result, we will be closing this case," Columbia interim hearing officer Jeremy Liss said in the email.

"We understand that this was not the result you had hoped for, however, Columbia is committed to supporting you and other members of the community who may have been impacted."

The unsuccessful investigation comes as Columbia attempts to mete out discipline against anti-Israel student protesters that disrupted campus for months. Because most protesters hid their identities behind keffiyehs or masks, however, authorities have struggled to identify them.

The student who filed the report was dismayed at the outcome, that student told the Washington Free Beacon on condition of anonymity. The student added that Columbia "should consider reinstating a ban on face coverings because anonymity enables misconduct," and provided the Free Beacon with a copy of their email response to Columbia administrators.

"It’s evident that our campus will remain unsafe as long as students can conceal their identities," said the email. "I have met with each of you individually, and the common response has been, ‘the situation on campus is a problem, but we don’t know what to do.’ Here’s a simple solution: ban masks and face coverings, making students accountable for their actions. There is precedent for this."

Liss also disclosed that the keffiyeh-clad protester who held a sign pointed at a group of Jewish students with the caption "Al-Qasam’s Next Targets," was determined to be unaffiliated with the university and so would not face any consequences. The sign was a reference to Hamas’s military wing, which carried out the terror attacks in Israel on Oct. 7.

Columbia University did not respond to a request for comment.

On the night of April 20, the same group of Jewish students that went out on campus brought an Israeli flag with them, which pro-Hamas agitators stole and later attempted to burn. In addition to being splashed with water, the group was assaulted and followed by protesters, according to one of the students. Another video of the evening shows an anti-Israel speaker calling for "escalation" and glorifying the Oct. 7 terror attack.

Columbia president Minouche Shafik faced calls to resign in the aftermath of the incidents.

Last weekend, students erected another unauthorized encampment that coincided with the school’s alumni reunions. While the encampment lasted roughly 48 hours, student protesters with the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter promised a "summer of disruption" and committed to "continue strategic, targeted attacks on all aspects of university life."

"There will be no business as usual during a genocide. … Paralyze all aspects of the university until the genocide and our complicity in it stops," the student group wrote. "As we continue our summer of disruption, we ask that every student, and our wider community, does the same. Use this time to agitate, educate, and escalate."

A Columbia spokeswoman who previously spoke to the Free Beacon about the third encampment said the school is "moving forward with the disciplinary process for those students who were identified as part of the encampment in violation of university rules."