‘Irrevocably Shaken’: Editors of Columbia Law Review Demand Cancellation of Exams, Citing Trauma Caused by Police Presence on Campus

Editors say the ‘violence’ has left them upset and ‘unable to focus’

Columbia Law School (Wikimedia Commons)
May 2, 2024

The student editors of the Columbia Law Review issued a statement on Wednesday urging Columbia Law School to cancel exams in the wake of the police operation that cleared the university’s unauthorized encampment, saying the "violence" had left them "irrevocably shaken" and "unable to focus."

The statement, which represents the majority opinion of the editorial board and was endorsed by five other law journals, including the Columbia Human Rights Law Review & A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual, accused the police of "brutalizing" students—though no major injuries have been reported—and claimed that canceling exams was a "proportionate response" to the "distress our peers have been feeling."

"The current exam policy raises concerns around equity and academic integrity," the statement said. "Many are unwell at this time and cannot study or concentrate while their peers are being hauled to jail."

The statement also accuses members of a "white supremacist, neo-fascist hate group" of "storming" campus—an apparent reference to a pro-Israel rally organized by Christian Zionists, including the evangelical musician Sean Feucht, who gathered outside of Columbia’s gates on April 25 for hymns and prayer.

"We do not think it is inconsistent with being a leading voice in legal academia and legal scholarship to prioritize students’ health and safety," the statement said.

Columbia Law School told the Washington Free Beacon it had no plans to cancel exams, which it said would be administered "through the conclusion of the exam period."

The law review’s editor in chief is Alexandria Iraheta Sousa, a second-year law student who has worked for numerous progressive nonprofits, including a dark money group, Demand Justice, that advocates court packing. She did not respond to a request for comment.

The law school already postponed exams scheduled for May 1—the day after protesters smashed the windows of Columbia’s famous Hamilton Hall and barricaded it from the inside, leading to a confrontation with a janitor who said he was held hostage—and has made all of them virtual amid the unrest. Hundreds of police officers descended on the building Tuesday night, arresting 40 people in the hall and nearly twice as many outside of it, not all of whom were students. The entire operation took just two hours.

Though the protesters are facing a range of criminal offenses, including burglary and trespassing, legal experts say they are unlikely to face jail time. Many seem to be banking on New York’s lax criminal sentencing laws, including the lack of cash bail, to keep them out of serious trouble, according to notes from meetings between Columbia and Princeton organizers obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

While Columbia has promised to expel the students who occupied Hamilton Hall, it is only suspending those who took over the university’s central quad for over a week.

"Columbia thinks they will get suspensions cleared," notes from a powwow between Princeton and Columbia activists read.

The crackdown has nonetheless shaken students on the top-ranked law journal, whose latest masthead includes four "diversity, equity, and inclusion" editors.

"The events of last night left us, and many of our peers, unable to focus and highly emotional during this tumultuous time," the Wednesday statement said. "This only follows the growing distress that many of us have felt for months as the humanitarian crisis abroad continues to unfold, and as the blatant antisemitism, islamophobia, and racism on campus have escalated."

That distress, the statement continued, "is not disproportionate to the outsized impact" these ills have had "on many of us in the community."

If the law school won’t cancel exams, the editors say it should at least make all courses pass/fail—a move that would make it impossible to differentiate between those who ace their tests and those who barely pass them.

"Instituting an optional Pass/Fail policy is not really optional when employers will see that some students have grades and others do not," the statement argues. "[T]his leaves room for the introduction of extreme bias into the hiring process."